Vincent S. Moore Presents:
A Little Change Of Pace
Howdy there, folks and welcome back to this week’s installment of Omnium Gatherum. I’m what’s left of your host, Vince Moore.
This week’s column is a little change of pace. Basically I blew my brains out the last two weeks fussing with Teh Fangrrlz and others. I have a series of columns planned that need some deep thought and a touch of research on my part if I want to pull off the trick I want.
So, in the interest of giving my beleaguered brain cells a break, I’m just doing a handful of reviews this week. Hopefully I will return to asking uncomfortable questions and raising ignored ideas next week or the week after.
Oh, my aching brain.
On to the reviews!
First up is Caffeine Dreams #2 (DWAP Productions, cover price $2.95; dwapproductions.com). I was given this copy way back at this year’s Comic Con International by Dale Wilson, member of The Antidote Trust, whose booth was the talk of the show, with its comfy couches and relaxed atmosphere and wide variety of books by different creators of color. It wasn’t until now that I took some time to actually read the book, lazy sod that I am.
Caffeine Dreams is an anthology with no easily determined focal point. The three stories contained in this outing ranged from dystopian science fiction to cautionary fable to contemporary crime dramedy. This variety could be both a strength and a weakness and it was both for all the stories inside. And the cover itself may appeal to an art comix crowd moreso to a mainstream/superhero one.
The first story by Chris Sagovac (art) and Mark Allyn Stewart (story) is To Rule In Hell. The premise of the tale is that the elite of humanity achieved a kind of immortality in the late 19th century. An immortality that, as is usual in these sorts of stories, is more curse than blessing. Told from the point of view of the assistant to the scientist who gave his immortal dream to the world, she recounts her final moments as the curse completes itself, with her death and the rebirth of a new human race. The story raises questions of what is important in life and death and rebellion as necessary evolutionary function. Rule relies heavily on its internal monologue narrative style, allowing the art to serve more as illustrations than as comics in a purist sense. The art style reminded me of Kent Williams’ work in Epic Illustrated. I would have liked to have seen the pages in color rather than the black and white in which the book is printed but one can’t always get what one wants, eh? Enough I found myself confused by the art, this was a pleasant tale to read.
The second story by Todd Harris (art and story) and Geoffrey Thorne (text) is The Tradition. Another illustrated story, it tells of a ritual performed by many males of many lands by the being who finds himself (itself?) as the anchor point of said rite of passage. Geoffrey’s prose reads well, giving the story a powerful feel. The shame is the art wasn’t completely up to snuff. The end notes say that Mr. Harris works as a “visualist” in film and video games; I couldn’t tell that from the quality of his illustrations. For every powerful figure drawn of the African warrior, there would be almost incomplete work done on it, as if the arms and chest were easy to draw but the legs and feet weren’t. It distracted and detracted from the overall effect of the story, lessening its intended impact. Almost as if the real rite of passage was the completion of this story. And just as with the hero of the piece, this rite of passage was not finished as expected.
The third story by Mulele Jarvis (art) and Dale Wilson (story) is The Assassination. This was my favorite of the three. Here we have a crime/caper story for two assassins who are colleagues and friends in their final moments. Mulele’s art is serviceable, in a loose European way; it reminded me of 100 Bullets right away. But I did have some problems with following in the story itself. There were no clear narrative lines of demarcation between past and present which confused me in the story’s middle and the conclusion left me feeling as if I missed something altogether.
I’m not sure if I will check out the next issue. But I’m not sure I won’t either.
And that’s not a good place of any comic to be.
Next up is Abraham The Young Lion #1 (Euchrestos Comics via Indyplanet.com, cover price $3.50; euchrestos.com). Our writer/artist Blackstar Osoar Shabach brings up an interesting take on the superhero, by mixing superheroics with a father quest. As our story opens, our hero Jedidiah Godschild is investigating the disappearance of his father, out titular hero Abraham aka The Young Lion, a black superhero in the Superman mold. His quest starts with the questioning of his father’s closest friend and chronicler Professor Foster Williams (an obvious and loving nod to Professor William Foster, scholar of the African American experience in comics). During the course of this conversation, we readers see our hero in the days of his prime, the year 1989, as he rescues victims from a car accident. Later on, we learn why Jedidiah is not completely convinced that his missing father is dead and hopes by searching into his life and sudden disappearance anew that he will learn his father’s fate. Of course, we end with a powerful hint of what is to come and the hand of the government doesn’t take too long to show itself. All in all, a very solid story.
Blackstar presents a number of interesting ideas, though not many that we haven’t seen before in other superhero comics. Yet it is the passion and belief in the material that shines through. Even the problems are not major ones that cannot be fixed. The graffiti-influence art style at times seems flat, drawing attention to itself as two dimensional art work. And there was a propensity to tell us the story instead of showing us events dramatically. I felt there was at least two issues worth of story in this one book and not in a good way necessarily. These points of telling rather than showing were missed opportunities for the readers to be drawn in deeper into the lives of the many characters in this first issue. I wanted to see the interaction between Jedidiah’s mother and wife played out more but felt cheated out of seeing these characters come to life. If Blackstar were to change and move away from this style of writing, the story would live in ways I don’t think he’s thought of yet.
And I have to say something about Indy Planet here. After learning about the book at Africomics.com and following the link, I ended up ordering the book from Indy Planet. That was July 13th. I didn’t receive the book until August 10th. It did arrive in good condition but, as this was my first experience with print on demand, I had almost forgotten about it completely. In the future I will think long and hard before ordering another book this way. And I don’t think that is something anyone who is listing their comics with any of the print on demand companies wants to hear or read.
But I will try to read the next issue of Abraham went it becomes available. Just not through Indy Planet if I can avoid it.
Lastly, there is Stormbringers #1 (Stormbringers Studios, cover price $5.00; stormbringers.com) by Korby Marks and John Stinsman. Here we have a new black superhero team book, filled with characters that don’t quite fit the usual molds. That in and of itself is refreshing. The story is of an former head of the CIA’s black ops division coming above ground after escaping the assassination attempt on his life and the lives of other CIA heads that took out the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. Yes, you read that correctly. To Mr. Marks, Sept. 11’s “real” conspiracy is the civil war going on between the CIA, FBI, ATF, and NSA. Moving past that major plot point, we find our hero Dr. Malcolm Xavier Forbes in the city of New Frontiers. A city suffering from a plague of women with sudden superpowers and a crime wave of murders involving the women with sudden superpowers. Now, before some of you out there gather your verbal pitchforks, just be patient with me. The situation does improve. Dr. Forbes has finally tracked down an old friend, Dr. Lydia Grant, who is the only therapist in town who is working with these newly empowered women. Dr. Grant herself is in hiding, working out of a storefront in the witches’ section of New Frontiers, a place where electricity doesn’t work but I guess we’ll learn that magic does. The two friends reunite not very easily. From there, we learn that each has a problem they need to other to solve: for Dr. Grant, she needs her remaining five patients, including an angel, trained in the use of their abilities and protected from The Vivisectors who are killing their sisters in the streets; for Dr. Forbes, he needs her to help with the deprogramming of the four former CIA assets he handled in the past that, naturally, are his first choices for protectors of the supernatural women. A deal is made and thus is the story set for the remaining three issues of this first story arc.
While I did find the core ideas interesting, I do worry about the sexual politics of the situation. All of the women in New Frontiers, thousands of them as mentioned, are all empowered by something Korby calls “womb energy”. No explanation of even the most bolognium-filled kind is offered. It is simply a power and a power source that comes from within women. Yet the men mentioned as protectors are all said to have come by their powers by force of will. Huh?? If I had to hazard a guess, it would be that Korby Marks is trying to dramatize old ideas of women-as-beings and men-as-doings, that everything associated with women flows from within and everything associated with men accrues from without. But it felt a bit disturbing to this reader.
The 9/11 link adds a sense of reality to the story yet the whole conspiracy angle immediately takes the realism away.
Again, much more telling than showing. Is writing good dramatic scenes becoming a lost art in comics? Manga does it, why have American comics forgotten it? I will revisit this topic soon.
The art, handled by John Stinsman, was the saving grace in this book. The beautiful and powerful pencils and inks added to the telling of the story. I’ll admit I’ve been a fan of John’s work since his pro debut on Avengeline from Maximum Press. Yes, Rob Liefeld’s old company. But John has always possessed a strong style that balanced realism with dynamism well. Time away from comics hasn’t taken the edge off of his work. The rest of the book production was just as excellent, the darker color palate matching John’s work perfectly and the letters were clear but could have been smaller without losing readability.
I do look forward to the next issue, but I hope the story becomes clearer as it progresses.
Closing up for this week, I want to say a few things about the recent announcement or whatever it was concerning female movie leads at Warner Brothers. It seems that Jeff Robinov, president of production at Warners, has let it be known his studio will no longer produce films anchored by female leads. Please, read that sentence again: Warners will no longer produce films anchored by female leads. Which is big news apparently. Then again, I’m one of those people who have heard it said the major studios for the most part won’t produce films with mostly or all black casts because they don’t make money supposedly.
Therein lies the rub.
That Warners choosing to not make any more female-centered movies is an economic decision. Not necessarily a sexist one, but an economic one, in all likelihood based on the losing track record of recent films.
I’m not agreeing with the decision, one that is being backed away from very slowly by Warners as a whole.
I just trying to see it for what it is: a business decision.
But it’s a decision that makes me think about how this situation has come about. Obviously no one in Hollywood sets out to make a bad film, right? (Okay, okay out there, stop laughing. I know it does seem like Hollywood is determined to get bad filmmaking down to a pure science lately but cut them a break.) Especially high paid actresses aren’t in the business of making bad movies. However something is going on that has brought this situation into being.
My thoughts on the matter are as follows:
Women make up little more than half the population of these United States. Therefore it is fair to assume they make up half of the potential movie going audience.
Now, and this is the tough part, could one ask if this particular audience who contribute to the success of the blockbuster flicks themselves are not interested in movies with female leads?
Could they, in a very general sense of the word, be more interested in reading fiction written by women or in watching TV shows they may feel are more geared towards the storytelling values they are seeking?
On the flipside, are the big name actresses risking their box office cache on efforts to bring to the screen scripts they know the studio wouldn’t produce otherwise? Even if they are bad?
I’m sure there are other questions that could be asked about this situation.
Because this year I have seen and enjoyed Resident Evil: Extinction but didn’t go to see The Brave One, The Invasion, or Prediction. Out of four movies with female leads I can recall, I saw one.
How many of them did you folks see?
See ya next week folks. Hopefully with the start of a personal manifesto.
Copyright 2006- 2010 Marc Mason/Comics Waiting Room. All rights reserved