Monday, 13 December 2010

It sounds so much funnier when I say it

Continuing a countdown of great superhero comics, I remember having to stop myself from including on the basis of simple variety Kamen Rider Hibiki, which was 2005's iteration of the long-running (and since ruined, in my opinion) Kamen Rider franchise that Japan's Toei began in the 1970s in response to Marvel's Spider-Man and which included comics, a live action tv series, videogames, movies, novels...

Whereas traditionally the series would revolve around the exploits of a teenage pretty-boy, Hibiki revolved instead around Asumu, a young boy who discovers the previously-unseen world of the Kamen Riders - a group of secret demon hunters who thanklessly and tirelessly vanquish leftovers from mythic times - when he takes thirty-something failure-in-life Hibiki as his unlikely mentor. Hibiki is a failure by the standards of Japanese society, being as he is unemployed, without children, an education, a trade, and is even unable to drive (the Kamen Rider franchise usually centers around fantastic motorcycles) - he is in every way unsuitable as a role model, yet Asumu for some reason takes to him as a replacement for his own absentee father, much to the amusement of Hibiki, who refuses to speak Asumu's name and refers forever to him merely as 'boy'. It's essentially a coming of age tale that could be told nowhere but Japan being as so much of it is told in cultural nuance, but many of its themes resonate beyond that and make a show with more heart than I've seen in western superhero equivalents.

Anyway - to the blog-filler!

5 - Batman Year One
In which Batman does not live solely to be grim and gritty as following tales would suggest, he lives instead as a means to inspire hope even as he uses fear to do so, with Gotham here represented as a city without either and so condemned to exist as a drap purgatory.
Jim Gordon moves on from being a joke of a copper to the kind of hard fucker you'd need for a city whose criminal population practice terrorist atrocities on a regular basis and a costumed nutjob dispensing random beatings seems like the only sane response. It's very 1980s, and Mazzucchelli captures a timeless picture of poverty and resigned despair in his portrayal of Gotham as some sort of sprawling Eastern European city that acts as a perfect setting for Miller's usual tropes and prevents them from becoming quite as crass as they might otherwise have been with a more traditionally-inclined draughtsman.

6 - The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man
I may have mentioned in the past once or fifteen times that I do not like Spider-Man the character, but there are some great stories based around him and his world and this is one of them, because - and I shan't spoil the specifics for you if you have not read it - you can read it as Spidey crying because he cannot grow beyond the juvenile character his franchise needs at its core. He can get married for decades at a time and it won't stick, he can become a father and it won't stick, he can become an educator and improve the world rather than drag it down to fistfights between petulant man-children and it still will not stick. Even when nobody is buying his books but thirtysomething men who actually have families of their own, he will forever regress to the character of a mooching bully sooner or later and meeting someone who will never get the chance to fulfill any of the promise of youth that he will never see fulfilled in his own life breaks his heart even when murders by the dozen do not.

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