Monday, 23 October 2017

If you want it to blink, I'm gonna need another weasel

There's really only 2000ad left to fly the banner for straight-faced comic tales in the UK, though how successful it is remains a bit of a grey area as publishers Rebellion don't give out sales figures - we don't know if the book turns a profit, much as we don't know if it's popular outside an aging readership, or if it's just being published as an IP farm by a relatively small media company that seems to have filled its IP catalogue in the last few years via fire sales of redundant UK comics properties.  Whatever the case may be, 2000ad is essentially "it" in the UK.
The House Of Tharg is a prolific publishing endevour overseen by a totalitarian extraterrestrial sociopath, but it's also one with a "house style", which I say with no value judgement attached: it is neither good nor bad that all which flows from the House is clearly identifiable as the output of one publisher in particular, this simply is what it is.
And so we come to 2000ad Presents, or to give it its full, unwieldy and admirably optimistic title,  2000ad Presents Scream! and Misty, or to give it a more accurate title 2000ad Presents some IP from Scream! and puts the Misty logo on there too because sure why not?
They needn't have bothered sticking the Misty brand on this at all is what I am implying, as there's only one story from that title and it's not terribly similar to the source anyway.  The whole thing feels like a 2000ad special more than a Scream! or Misty outing, which obviously it would do given the creative talent draws from The Only Show In Town, but also because it actually is a 2000ad special and even has the 2000ad logo on the front and everything, so... you know, there's that.
Anyway, I don't know why I bothered with a lengthy intro to what is essentially a bullet-point review of this comic, but the general thrust of the above was that this comic feels very 2000ad-y more than anything.  I got there in the end.

Of the strips themselves, John Stokes draws the living shit out of the 13th Floor, and while you can't go wrong with Frazier Irving, I would have preferred John Stokes do the whole strip for the sake of consistency as much for the simple pleasure of seeing him further channel Ortiz for the nightmarish 13th Floor sequences.  Guy Adams does a good job and further distances himself from That Deadpool Type Thing In 2000ad That I Hate - though that hate has more to do with my fiery dislike for Deadpool and anything remotely like it than Mr Adams' writing.  I mean, Alan Moore did an issue of Spawn once, you guys - sometimes you just have to play the hand fate deals you, and you can't blame a man for selling his ass to pay them bills.

I maybe would have tried to play down mentions of high rise fires, but the script does a good job of hitting the necessary beats even if the eventual fates of the antagonists lacked any ironic satisfaction like - for example - happy-slapping bullies perpetually chasing "more views" by uploading footage of the brutalising of their victims perhaps becoming viral video stars when footage of them crying like babies at imagined demons is uploaded onto their video channel, though there's an admirable simplicity to characters experiencing brutal and uncomplicated fates such as being rendered comatose after being terrorised like they terrorised others.  Apart from the inclusion of social media bullying, this story is remarkably similar to an existing 13th Floor storyline, though I have noticed one glaring omission from this homage to the original, in that the strip doesn't acknowledge the finest era of The 13th Floor: when Max ran a supermarket and was also a spy for HMG.  Just me, then?  FINE.

The Dracula File - Dracula was an entirely different character from what he was in the original strip and the story had nothing to do with the original strip and was not like it in any way, but apart from that, this was exactly the same as the old Dracula File.  I really liked the use of thought bubbles, a technique mostly maligned by comics purists who insist that Spider-Man feels much more mature when his thought bubbles are turned into rectangles, and the look of Bat-Dracula on the last page also reminds me of Mike Mignola's work on the adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, but this whole setup and backstory is clearly a shameless steal of Dr Acula from SCRUBS.  The diversity in the cast of characters is also welcome, what with Britain being a multicultural society and all, but mainly it's welcome because it annoys arseholes.  Annoyed that a comic has a South Asian female lead?  Sorry to break it to you, buddy, but you are most likely an arsehole.  I mean, you'd probably need a second opinion to be sure, but in 99 percent of cases, hating a story because one of the characters is brown and/or a woman strongly indicates arseholedom.
The good news is that it's curable and rarely terminal - you just have to stop being an arsehole.

Death Man - This is a bizarre strip for all the wrong reasons, but mostly for its similarities to the plot of Zenith, and the plot of Albion, and the plot of Secret Wars 3, and the plot of the Dark Tower novels.  Maybe I'm being harsh and the world needs more superheros coming out of comics limbo to fight reality-threatening menaces, though - like Dan Abnett's Guardians of the Galaxy did, or the third season of Ultimate Spider-Man did, or the fourth season of the 90s Spider-Man did, or the fourth season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles did.  Okay I'll stop now.
Despite a 2-page infodump on the characters, none of them seemed interesting in their own right within the 6 pages of actual comic story, not to mention changing them from what they were originally into stock superhero team archetypes just seems like it would negate the one selling point this strip had: nostalgia.  I mean, Blake Edwards alone, you'd have half of America's comics writers under 40 take your bloody arm off to write a comic about a billionaire extreme sports star with a face like Eddy out of Iron Maiden who disguises himself as a mummy to fight werewolves, so why didn't they just give him his own strip instead of having him show up at the end and just stand there like a lemon?  Even the main character doesn't seem to do anything in this.  I guess because this story started in a different 2000ad special from last year (no, really) and nothing is resolved here, it means we're definitely getting more of this strip whether we want it or not, so I suppose my opinion of it is irrelevant.  Oh well.

Black Max - Me likey.  A lot to work with here, especially liking the quips building up the main character's false bravado, punctuated by the wailing self-doubt into the mirror in the closing panel that seems like it could be an ending right out of a 1980s girls' comic, though Simon Coleby's renderings of kids are incredibly creepy-looking, which is more in keeping with the sensibilities of boys' comics by the likes of Eric Bradbury.  I personally liked the sense of a shared universe off in the background that the appearance of the Sentinels brought to things a lot more than the in-your-face League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen sensibility of Death Man, and that instead of the logic and storytelling of a teen drama from The CW that seems to be a common thread through the other strips, Black Max just goes full-on with its batshit-crazy premise of a tween girl wearing her grandad's WW1 trophies to go skateboarding during a blood moon and getting chased through Limbo by the ghosts of bat-people.  It's the most willfully outrageous of the strips, but also the only one that seems to fully work on its own terms, and as an addition to the canon of the comics whose logos adorn the cover.

Return Of The Sentinels - This one felt like it was the most 2000ad-ish of all the properties featured, and the one with the most obvious potential to be developed in other media, but the current ubiquitousness of an alternate Britain where the Nazis won has diminished the novelty of the central premise, and given the Man In The High Castle trope has been done to death in comics and tv lately, this should ideally have been more than a retread of the Black Max story with a generic teen lead - though I appreciate that the similarities with Black Max weren't intentional and these creators probably worked with minimal or zero interaction.  Given I just complained about similarities to Black Max, I probably sound like a bigger tit than usual for suggesting that Return of the Sentinels should have taken more from BM's playbook and skewed its lead characters much younger in keeping with the original strip, as the teen girl protagonist that looks like she's in her twenties is kind of old hat now. Some of the lettering placement is pretty confusing, and the protagonist is one of those typical YA heroines who's just an average girl until they have to be a master of all forms of combat (to beat up Nazi stormtroopers with her bare hands, of course), but it's not like this is actually terrible or anything, it just doesn't seem to stand out and I have no strong feelings about the material.

Fate of the Fairy Hunter - would have preferred more JK Rowling bashing, but that's just in general.  Feels like it blows its story load a page before the end, but the main gripe is that for something that's supposed to be channeling Misty, it has far too happy an ending for its unlikable characters - maybe I am imagining that they would have gotten a comeuppance in older UK comics and it's a creation of the modern era that awful characters tend to escape karmic slapdowns.  This, more than anything else in the special, feels more like a one-off from 2000ad - not bad, just out of place.

All in all, some high points, but not much of a return to the glory days of Scream! or Misty.  It's a serviceable 2000ad special, though possibly suffers from almost all the stories feeling like pilot episodes.  Would have preferred it skewed a little younger, but it's hard to say if that's because I'd have liked younger readers to pick it up, or just because that would have made it more like the source material.  Probably a bit of both.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

I hate to sound all lovey-dovey, but you're giving me a boner

I used to watch films with actual wolfses in them - usually werewolfses - but then I joined Twitter to promote a graphic novel and talk shit about b-movies and five years later I'm a communist and every film I watch - even if it has giant robots in it - is some critique of its age instead of just some amusing stuff that happens while I drink beer in a mostly futile attempt to stave off the terrors that come with my dreams, so maybe that's why The Wolf Of Wall Street strikes me as a critique of late-stage capitalism masquerading as a catalogue of the excesses that unearned affluence can bestow to those of minimal skill and/or an inflated sense of self-worth.  One thing it is not is a sequel to that Jack Nicholson film where he is a werewolf or possibly he actually wasn't and it was just a mid life crisis or something - I wasn't woke at the time I saw it and just liked that he pulled someone's fingers off and then peed on a man's trousers.
The Wolf Of Wall Street's masterstroke is that for all the close-ups of drug-addled characters writhing in their own fluids and crippled by irrational paranoia, the vulgarity of the nouveau riche is catalogued seemingly uncritically, and the only clue as to Scorcese's true intent is when the camera pans slowly back to reveal line after line of complete fucking rubes lining up to learn how to extract unearned wealth from an unapologetic alpha male prick who makes no bones about the fact he's fleecing each and every person in the room and to a man and woman they're too thick to comprehend it.

Lady Bloodfight is basically Bloodsport, but with attractive ladies.  Some knowing winks at Western kung-fu cliches hide behind corny dialogue and occasionally-ropy delivery, while the script buries a potential antagonism between the blonde lead and a goth street thug in favor of exploring sympathetic rivalries among the fighters, which is not terribly common to the death sport genre - on account of the whole "death" part - and so has novelty on its side, though it does rob the film of a firm central arc.  There are some traditional antagonists in play, but they're not pivotal enough to the story to become narrative lynchpins, and I would argue they feel tacked-on to give a coming of age plot more appeal to the traditional action b-movie crowd, much as the left field appearance of a Force Ghost in the final stretch objectively seems out of place to all but avid watchers of head-punching cinema like myself.
I couldn't for the life of me remember where I'd seen the lead actor before, but The Internet thankfully provided the answer: she is stuntwoman/cosplayer Amy Johnson, AKA "the live action version of Harley Quinn you can watch without wanting to peel your eyes out and stab yourself in the ears" though her day job is also to make Scarlett Johannson look good - by which I mean that she is Scarlett Johannson's fight double in the Marvel movies, and not that she fabricates stories in the media to make it seem like Scarlett Johannson actually gives two fucks about Palestinian rights or international law.
I was lucky to see this as it was intended to be viewed (while quite drunk), though, so narrative shortcomings didn't bug me as much as not seeing more slow-motion kicks to the face.  Ultimately, I enjoyed it plenty. 

Friday, 13 October 2017

Basically I broke my vagina

I don't suppose we'll ever crack the DaVinci Code that explains why Youtube doesn't aggressively pursue copyright infringement claims against large channels that bring them lots of money with the same vigor they do smaller channels that bring them little or no money, but while it continues to somehow use large chunks of films, cartoons and tv shows as fodder for its unfunny running commentaries, CinemaSins is lazy, cheap and destructive to modern entertainment.
If you don't know CinemaSins, you've been quite fortunate - or unfortunate, as you missed a brief moment years ago when it was approaching being good - but in a nutshell its business model is to repackage the work of others and profit from it while claiming to be exempt from copyright protection laws on the basis that what they do is "parody", and bad enough that it profits from distributing other people's work, but its whole schtick is to cite a series of nitpicks which it calls "sins" in a running commentary alongside actual footage from the work (so you know, they can shit on something while profiting from it) that in reality would be little more than continuity errors even if they weren't mostly just the result of the CinemaSins narrator/scriptwriter failing to observe or pay attention to the work, meaning that CinemaSins has basically found a way to monetise that guy in the movie theater who thinks he's funny and won't shut the fuck up.
This format means that they are not simply reproducing and distributing other people's work, but they are also defaming it while presenting it as factual or academic critique.  "It's just a joke!" Its fans will no doubt offer as a defence, and if that's the extent to which they think about how media works there's nothing I can do about that and I wish them well as I am obviously not going to sway them with arguments about how viral memes on social media have substituted myth for fact and how this has now damaged our society so actual art has little chance of emerging somehow unscathed from the same crucible, how artists should be compensated for their work even when it is reinterpreted and used to demean their endeavors, or even just difficult rocket scientist concepts like fairness.  If that's you, you can stop reading and leave now.
No really, clear off.  Go laugh at someone who's fallen out of a wheelchair or whatever it is you do with that moral compass of yours.

And now no-one is left reading my blog post because the only people who came here were those who got an alert on their phone and thought a new CinemaSins video had been uploaded - but that's okay because I've already had a pageview from them!  LOL DO YOU SEE?  I have used CinemaSins' own tactic to generate web traffic!  It's what they would have wanted, I am sure.  I mean, they're good guys, really, it's not like they respond to criticism of their channel or videos in a really poor and petulant way that betrays they don't have a sense of humor and their video scripts are little more than comments trawled from the web, though on the offchance they're offended by any of the above: IT'S JUST A JOKE YOU GUYS DON'T TAKE IT SERIOUSLY.