Johns and Goyer make the seemingly impossible, a crossover of two big superhero teams without following the common structure of two teams fighting over a dumb misunderstanding and then joining and fighting a common evil. Instead they start with a joint thanksgiving, giving nearly every of the many characters a short moment without making the comic feel overcrowded.
Sure, the overall plot goes back to the standard theme of fighting some villains, but the execution, both the excellent art and the good writing, makes all the difference. One theoretical advantage of crossovers is seeing new combinations (team-ups or just plainly two characters having a talk) of known characters, creating new dynamics that still feel true to each of them. But most crossovers fail already at that first step, often too many writers with too different voices are involved to make it feel coherent all over.
Not so this time, everything seems to hit the right tone, every character seems to be himself. And there’s also plenty of action. There are even, at the beginning and the end, some short introspective moments, who despite their shortness, work very well, mirroring Gagarin’s famous words about Earth and its beauty seen from space and the need to preserve it.
Last time I thought, if Ennis would ditch the superhero elements, that Kev would improve significantly, but obviously this wasn’t entirely true. While the slapstick-like elements, that the intrusion of superheroes into the world of Kev provided, are completely absent here, it’s still not up to Ennis best stuff. This time the weaker elements of the series are structural, until the story gains momentum in the last two issues it feels like everyone is just biding his time.
But at least it’s decent entertainment and it’s good to see one of Ennis’s characters walking away from all the violence alive and getting a kind of happy end.
by Arvi Teikari . (Download)
A small puzzle-platformer that has similar style like Crayon Physics, albeit a different kind of gameplay. You have to beat 9 different levels, with only the last three giving you much of a challenge. Your mission is to collect a certain number of crystals in each level, but they aren’t always in the most accessible places. To beat most obstacles you have to use your own and enemy bullets as platforms. There are two difficulty settings, the hard one limiting the number of bullets you can shoot.
It’s nice, but far too short. You’ll feel like you’ve played only a tutorial for the game until you’ll realize that you’ve beaten it. But the gameplay mechanics in combination with the well done crayon style makes this one fun while it lasts.
I hated most of it. Which is odd, because it gets praise seemingly from everyone on the net. I read one review that said that Waid really got the F4, that they are at their core explorers and not superheroes. Which looking back at Waid’s run, it’s something sorely lacking. There are no new worlds or dimensions explored, and apart from the sentient equation at the beginning of the run, all things that turn up are old F4 stuff that has been used again and again in the past. It’s a sentimental trip through the past, mainly referencing Kirby’s stuff. And the new elements don’t work. But I come to that later.
What Waid did felt like dialing back the characters to their simplistic Kirby-era characteristics. That’s the first annoying thing, his F4 are so one-dimensional it’s painful. Even generic F4 runs before him had the F4 with more depth than Waid gave them.
But not until the return of Doom did it hit me how awful his run was. Waid’s Doom can be entirely described by his petty jealousy of Reed Richards. That’s how Kirby handled him,but since I never liked the Kirby stuff, that’s not a plus in my opinion. There was a time for such stuff, but that has long been gone, thankfully. Well, until Waid came and did away with the depth later writers added to Doom, making him again the boring, one-dimensional arch-enemy he was under Kirby.
The one new element Waid added to everything was a certain grim and gritty attitude, which combined with his simplistic approach to storytelling and characterization made everything look even more stupid. Especially the aftermath of the conflict with Doom and the usurpation of Latveria by the F4 was the most laughable thing I’ve read for a long time in the F4.
And then they went to see God. Who turned out to be Kirby, which probably was the most annoying cop-out I’ve seen for such a long time in comics. Sure, a nice nod to Kirby-fans, but as the climax of a storyline mostly ill-advised. And then the Galactus storyline, which at first seemed like the best stuff the whole run had to offer, but which also ended in some anti-climatic morale offering about humans never giving up and Galactus (now human) leaving our dimension to save everything.
Sometimes it’s easy to understand why you like something and sometimes it’s a bit less obvious. Sure, in JTHM’s case there are some obvious things that I liked from the start, the unique, cartoony style and the massive amount of over the top violence. The director’s cut has a clever introduction that points out the monster in all of us and how imagined violence is always better to feed our own monster than to actually act it out in reality.
But that aside, what I really like is how the seemingly nonsensical two or three page strips about Johnny’s violent outburst actually amount to some sort of storyline that makes sense in some sick and deranged way (who ever thought up a room with a wall that needed blood to hold back some rather unpleasant entities).
It doesn’t feel like there was much of a plan to begin with, a real sense of finish Vasquez had it mind before he began. Consequently, when the comic reaches the end, the way has been more interesting than the finish. But that’s okay in this case, because while it doesn’t give much closure for the bigger picture, it’s a good point to say goodbye to Johnny, for he has grown in his own violent ways.
So the less than obvious reason for liking JTHM is that I actually think the story and the storytelling is fascinating, but the approach to both aspects rather unique and not easily accessible, were it not for the violence and the drawing style. The writing is also a unique mix, using insane ramblings, screaming (used for tirades and emanations of pain) and musings on people’s behavior that sometimes hit the right mark, but more often are so mixed up that you can’t clearly separate the insane from the sane. But that’s okay, because the mix of those two aspects can be rather funny, even more so when combined with excessive graphic violence.
So JTHM doesn’t only feed our inner monster, it also makes us laugh (in many different shades) and packs everything in a less than tidy narrative with some obvious but still true insights in human nature, giving all the aspects of our human minds something to feed on.
Sometimes minor or average pieces, when taken together to form something bigger, somehow can transcend the flaws in their singular form and make something grander. Sadly, for this mega-series, the opposite is true. I didn’t liked everything, Klarion, Frankenstein and Bulleteer were my favorites, while The Guardian, Shining Knight and Zatanna were average and Mister Miracle was awful, but on the whole the singular series were more interesting on their own than as pieces of a bigger puzzle. In truth, the revelation about what the Sheeda were or would be, was interesting, but the central concept of every one of the seven revamped superheroes taking part in the downfall of the Sheeda never worked in the end.
Another thing is, so far everything I’ve read by Morrison has more than just one layer, there always seems to be something more going on, from impenetrable but brilliant stuff like the Invisibles or the Filth to superhero fare like New X-Men. I always felt that Morrison’s stuff had more meaningful things to say than just what you see on the surface. And some tiny pieces of that are there in some of the mini-series. But overall, with the whole unifying structure a complete failure, there never emerges anything more meaningful. Which makes Seven Soldiers feel strangely hollow when seen as a whole.
Which isn’t to say it’s not entertaining, as I said the mini-series can be quite good on their own. Just don’t expect a big and grand finish, since the final chapter of Seven Soldiers is the least interesting thing of the whole mega-series.
These days, I generally hate crossovers in comics. What started out as a tool to strengthen continuity and to write big, epic stories involving as many characters of a shared universe as possible, has become the bane of the two big comic houses and the lesser ones as well, disrupting the ongoing stories of the monthly series and making big, stupid changes that actually do more harm than good. That’s not to say that they can’t be fun when done right.
Cosmic Odyssey is that, an early crossover that tells an epic story with some of the biggest guns of the DC Universe involved, yet one that is self-contained and told in four issues. Part of the appeal to me is that the all the art is done by Mike Mignola, who, along with Walter Simonson, another favorite of mine, started out with channeling Kirby but refined his style until it became completely his own. Kirby’s influence is not only felt in the art, the story takes many of his fourth world ideas and tells the story of the real nature of the anti-life equation and explains the origins of the New Gods.
If I remember right, Cosmic Odyssey is not completely canon anymore, but I never cared for such a thing. I create my own canon by reading the stories I like. It’s all fiction after all. But what a glorious creation. It’s pompous and downright stupid at times (why arrive the heroes always in the nick of time to stop the doomsday bombs or the whole concept of destroying the galaxy by destroying four solar systems is just hilariously bad), but also a non-stop action fest with convincing characters and a plot with some excellent twists and turns. When it comes down to it, it’s everything the title promises, an exhilarating cosmic adventure.
More of the same stuff. This time the Authority has been defeated by some really weird creature and only Kev seems to be able to help the last man standing, the Midnighter. In this series it becomes obvious to even the most dense reader that Garth isn’t interested at all in writing Authority superhero stuff, but rather trace the life of an SAS employee who realizes just how fucked up the life he is living is. This makes at times for an uneasy balance between the down to earth elements of Kev’s world and the craziness of the Authority’s world. All in all it’s a good read, but I think the inclusion of the superhero stuff weakens the series to some extend.
A conversion of a rather weird anime (if the strange characters that turn up are any indication) into a platformer. The game is rather nice: good controls, very varied and good looking stages, even if each stage is far too short and the mechanics are typical platformer fare. The early bosses are easily defeated, the later ones are a bit harder. I’ve come as far as some giant octopus, which I think is the final boss, but I can’t say for sure, as I haven’t found a way to beat him (if anyone knows how to do that I would be thankful for any tip (Update 16/08/2011: managed to finish the game)). It’s nothing outstanding, far too short and despite quite good looking too generic to leave a bigger impression, but it’s good to pass some time and have fun. Translation patch can be found here.
Third level boss. Stand in the middle (left or right side doesn’t work) of the screen jump over his fire wave and wait till he comes down. Don’t attack him from the front, as he will avoid this easily. Remain still in the middle of the screen, either he stops before you to shoot small fire pebbles (jump over him right before he does and kick him in the back) or he walks toward you (jump up and then kick him from behind). Works like a charm.
This mid-level-boss (6th or 7th level) is kinda annoying if you don’t know what to do. Which is, whenever he shoots the round things (the one near his head) kick them into him. Easy once you know.
Okay, the final boss is really annoying, especially as you need a move that you probably didn’t knew about before and never needed elsewhere in the game. I’m talking about the Left/Right Shoulder buttons on the SNES-pad, which allow you to jump down in a diagonal with a kick. You’ll need this to jump onto the stones and from there kick the band-aid on the octopus after you loosened the same with some kicks when the octopus jumped up and down. All easier said than done. After you managed that, you’ll kick free the cross/flying statue/whatever, which you also have to kick as often as possible. I had to do the whole process only twice, then the octopus was finished. Takes some training and save states, as I can’t imagine beating the final boss without them. Here’s a youtube video of another guy who managed the same feat.
This is the kind of series I watched as a kid on TV with overwhelming glee. These days there’s not much enthusiasm for that kind of entertainment left. Taking elements from the comic series but remixing it too look and feel a bit like Captain Planet, one of the worst animation series to ever have grazed television screens. Gone is the brooding and dark atmosphere of the comic, instead we get a Swamp Thing with a cheerful attitude, annoying sidekicks, a seriously dumbed down Arcane as a megalomaniac villain and his evil and stupid henchmen. All in all it’s quite dumb, the dialog is wooden and ridiculous, the characters are cardboard and the plots can be summarized in one-liners. Basically Arcane is trying to become immortal through various means and Swamp Thing has to stop him in every episode. Thankfully they only made five.