Posts Tagged ‘comic book’

I Kill Giants

There are a lot of stigmas surrounding comics.   More often than not, people have pre-concieved notions about what and how a comics is.  They get this idea of superhero comics and bebcome dismissive.  They don’t understand that when you take away the “Super” dressing, and get to the heart of the “Hero”, what you have is a story about people.   In reading Joe Kelly’s I Kill Giants, I am reminded not only of what comics truly are, but what they can be.

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I Kill Giants is the story of a precocious little girl named Barbara who spends her life preparing to hunt and kill Giants.  Her obsession is so singular that she blocks out everyone around her, from the mundanes that surround her in school to the family that loves her, despite their broken home.  But Barbara doesn’t care about people; Barabara just wants to kill Giants. Together with her legendary war hammer Covaleski, she plans to end the lives of Giants no matter how powerful.   And yet no one else seems concerned that the monster may come.  To them, she’s just a strange girl with a bizarre fascination with mythology.   Maybe she is.   And it seems that no one can get through the wall of calloused cynicism she’s built around her heart, until one day a new school psychologist and a new neighbor named Sophia walk into her life.  Combined with the arrival of a new school bully named Taylor, Barbara’s life is sent spiraling through a course of events that she may not survive, or even want to.

I won’t pretend I’m entirely certain what happended in the strictest sense of this story.   There is a stark contrast painted between the “real” world that Barbara is forced to tolerate and the magic world in which she lives.   In the end, it doesn’t matter.  The answer to that question is not nearly as important to Barbara’s story as you may first imagine.   On one level it appears to be the story of a child escaping into her imagination to avoid the harshness of her reality.  And yet at times it seems to be about her stuggle to slay the monsters which only she can see and defeat.   But it’s both… and it’s neither.

I won’t ruin the book by defining it.   But Barbara’s journey will enthrall you.  Her tortured, brilliant young mind will empathize with you.  Her fights with Giants will astound you.  And her plight will reduce you to tears.  And you will fear for Barbara, but don’t worry… she’s stronger than she thinks she is.

I Kill Giants is exemplary of the kind of complex writing that comics are capable of, and achieve more often than society believes.    It’s a story about life.  And a story about people.

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Why It Truly Was the Incredible Hulk

Yes, it’s time for another one of my movie reviews, because I’m just obnoxious enough to think that people really give a shit. If you’ve read my reviews before, then you should be familiar with the format; I do a general over-view and then break down specific elements. If I post any spoilers, I’ll label it under a specific paragraph and then make it so it’s only visible if you highlight it. Also, my reviews are sort of R rated. So anyway, here’s to it…

In the course of Marvel Comics brief film history, I think there will be two eras: everything before Iron Man, and everything after. For those of you not in the know, Iron Man was the first film to reap the benefits of Marvel Enterprises’ purchase of their own film studio, allowing them to produce their own films (which will include everything not previously licensed out). In the past, film studios have done what they wished with the properties. Some film-makers showed respect to them (Sam Raimi, David Goyer, Bryan Singer {I’m not counting Superman Returns}). Others have strip mined the source material, and made comic book films which featured the characters in name only (Tim Burton, Ang Lee). Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I think Iron Man, and now the Incredible Hulk, have proved that basing the film on the comics over-all provides a more satisfying movie, regardless of whether or not you’ve read the comics.

I loved the Incredible Hulk. It may not be as funny as Iron Man (what with Banner being a much more morose, tortured character than Tony Stark ever was), but I’d say I enjoyed it at least as much, if not more.

I never saw the Ang Lee film. I was turned off by Jennifer Conelly’s description of Lee’s vision for the film as a Greek tragedy, not to mention the trailers which showed off a hairless, green King Kong. It’s not surprising that Marvel chose to pull a “Batman Begins” and ignore the first film altogether. Their commitment to making this film as continuity-free from the first is spelled out in the opening sequence. Everything you need to know to enjoy this film are spelled out in the opening credits, and the details are filled in as the we go along. The film is a perfect mix of the sad, tortured world of Bruce Banner, and the primal, fantastic world of the Hulk. Neither is neglected.

Banner

I would never make this comparison in the comics, but I found a lot of resemblances between Bruce Banner and Jason Bourne while watching. The scenes in which Banner is evading his military pursuers evoke the kinetic action of the Bourne Identity. Not to mention the similarities in their life styles and some of their motivations. Both are military experiments gone wrong. Both are being hunted because of their values as weapons. And Bourne and Banner are both trying to understand who they are now and what has happened to them. I would never have thought to make those comparisons, but it works.

Between the espionage-inspired elements, we’re given a lot of human moments. It is made very clear from start to finish how alone he is, how much he needs Betty, and how desperate he is to get his life back.

Edward Norton absolutely awesome as Banner. He’s one of my favorite actors, and it’s easy to see why here. There is a moment early on where he adjusts his glasses, which directly mirrors a panel from Bryan Hitch’s illustration of Banner in the Ultimates.

Just in the way he adjusted his glasses as Banner would, I knew he was perfect for this.

The Hulk


I’m not sure how much Ang Lee focused on humanizing the monster in his film, but Louis Letrrier and Norton went a long way toward showing that the line between the man and the monster is far finer than one might think. Sure, for the most part the Hulk is still unrestrained fury, a force of nature… but there are asides throughout that show recognizeable connections to his humanity.

But don’t worry, there’s plenty of HULK SMASH, and a hell of a smashing it is. There are about four action sequences featuring the Hulk. Each one gets better than the one before it. And the best part is that it isn’t just the Hulk smashing things. There are plenty of trademark moves from the comics, and one from the video game, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, in which he tears a car in half and uses it as boxing gloves. My inner fanboy barely resisted cheering out as he took on Thunderbolt Ross’ assault teams.

CGI

It looked about a lot more realistic than I would have expected. Not real, mind you, but close enough so that it wasn’t a distraction. He’s not neon green in this one, and he doesn’t look like a retard. The facial features in particular were very impressive. And the Abomination looked really fucking crazy. I would probably crap my pants if I saw that coming at me.

The Actors

Unlike Iron Man, I was very satisfied with who they cast.

Live Tyler is one of those actors, who kind of plays herself in every role she’s in. She wasn’t nearly as spunky as Betty is typically portrayed. Betty Ross is supposed to be the only person on Earth who would actually yell at the Hulk. Plus, since they fuck, she should presumably have a humongous vagina. Or maybe Hulk is over compensating. That being said, I like Liv Tyler, and I thought she had a lot of chemistry with both Norton and Hurt.

And William Hurt is always good. There were moments here and there where he seemed detached, but when it counted, when facing either Banner or Betty or showing his Ahab- like obsession, he came through.

The only other major player was Emil Blonskly, played by Tim Roth. In the comcis, Blonsky was cold-war spy who gets gamma irradiated by accident and turns into the Abomination. Well, the Cold War is over, so they made him a special ops guy on loan from… I don’t know, some country or another. I thought Roth was effective as a career military type who will do anything to achieve his mission. Roth makes it clear though, that it’s more about ego than honor for him. This is a guy who doesn’t like to lose. And he’s crazy enough to do anything to make it happen.

What they took from the comics

A lot. Actually, the attempt was made to make it more like the TV Show from the 80s, even going so far as to bring in Lou Ferrigno for a cameo (and just to warn you, Ferrigno is mentally handi-capped, and while his speach ability is much better than when he was on the show, you will likely have no idea what the fuck he is saying, just appreciate the geek moment of him being there). As mentioned previously, there’s a moment Norton takes directly from the Ultimates. I’d bet there was a lot more that I didn’t spot. Fans should be on the lookout for a familiar name from the Hulk universe. And even Banner’s contact protocol was taken directly from Bruce Jones’ run on the title. Like Iron Man, you don’t need to be familiar with all of this, but the fans will get an added geek bonus from the experience.

Overall

The conept of the Hulk has always been a combination of big budget monster movie and psychological human drama. This film delivers both, in spades. I can’t think of a single second where I was distracted by an inaccuracy, shitty dialogue or any of the usual problems I have with this sort of film. I’d see it again. In fact, I probably will, just to enjoy without the sceaming children from yesterday’s showing.

And Justice For All…

Contrary to what most people tend to believe, comic books have always existed on the periphery of the social and political fabric. It is a medium that is ideal for exploring subjects of all depths and magnitudes, being both literary and visual in nature. For decades comics has been willing and able to broach topics both taboo and politically unsavory, though often in the most of subtle of ways, under the guise of men in capes and bright colors. In many ways these characters were not just fighting goofy villains with borderline WWF gimmicks, they were fighting for what it both good and imaginative inside all of us. Sure, you don’t believe me. It’s kids stuff, right? The truth is, if you gave me fifty dollars of your money, I guarantee I could find a few graphic novels that would not only change your mind about the medium of comics ( CLICK HERE for a few suggestions), but perhaps even the way you see the world in general.

But you’re not going to do that. Tonight, though, I found something more palatable to society’s tastes. A movie. Something you could rent through Blockbuster Online or Netflix without any financial gamble. Sure, it’s a cartoon, but hear me out.

A few years ago, a bright new writer named Darwyn Cooke wrote a graphic novel called The New Frontier. The book was sort of a modern glimpse of Silver Age comics. The term silver age refers to a specific period in comic book history, revising it’s original form from the Golden Age, and paving the way for the Modern Age. The silver age is both the wellspring and the bane of modern comics. You see, most of the stigmas about comics that the average person has comes from the silver age. It was wierd time, and many of the ideas the were birthed in that period were odd and some were borderline psychotic. But a lot of these ideas cultivated the imaginative and mature world of the Modern Age. It was like the progression from childhood to adulthood.

So it was kind of curious that Cooke chose to write about this wierd, wonderful era. I’d heard great review of the New Frontier, but at the time, I was going off to college and I foolishly believed it was time to put away childish things. It took time, but I slowly found my way back to the medium that I loved. By then, Cooke had become something of an Indie Rockstar in the comics world, getting great press, but staying on the fringe. He preferred to work on the smaller books that he felt was more important, like a pulp fiction version of Catwoman and the creation of deceased comics legend Will Eisner, The Spirit.

So again, I thought it was curious that DC comics chose Cooke’s New Frontier as the subject of their second major animated movie in a line that they are currently producing. They didn’t know it at the time, but the first movie they put out, Superman/Doomsday (which adapted the Death of Superman storyline from the 90’s) bombed horribly. Seriously, it was crap. So if Justice League New Frontier bombed, it would not bode well for the other animated released which are already well into production. But I’m here to say: it’s brilliant.

You can describe it a number of ways. In some ways it is a somewhat liberal, yet patriotic allegory for modern American issues. I don’t think it’s a stretch to infer that Hal Jordan’s statements about the Korean War reflect the feeling of some for the war in Iraq. I also believe that this is very much a Silver Age love letter by the film’s creators. And yes, in the end, it is a big, Flash-y (sorry) action movie starring the World’s Finest heroes.

The movie presents iconic (though in some cases, harsh) takes on the heroes that make up this world. Some will be familiar to you, such as Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman. But here, they are not leather fetish, nipple armored dancers, super-powered deadbeat dads or… err, Dixie Carter with hooker bracelets. This is very much a comic book brought to life. And in this case, it is brought to life by people you know. It stars Neil Patrick Harris, David Boreanaz (Angel), Kyle Maclachlan, Brooke Shields, Jeremy Sisto and, as an inside joke, Lucy Lawless as the aforementioned amazon princess.

I won’t get into the plot exactly, since I don’t want to give away the movie. However I will say that the title of the movie is misleading, since the Justice League doesn’t technically appear as a team. That’s not what this is about. All of the characters do appear, and each, in true comic form, is given his or her moment to shine, giving the audience a clear understanding of the characters and their motivations and fears. Now, there are a number of characters that the audience will not know (Adam Strange, Green Arrow, the Blackhawks). And that is the movie’s one major flaw. Past the halfway mark, heroes begin appearing randomly without any introduction or foreshadowing (especially that last one). It is a noticeable error, but not distracting from the enjoyment of the film.

Make no mistake, this isn’t just some cartoon. In fact, I would hesitate before showing it to small children. The fact is, one of the main characters murders a soldier in an act of self preservation. And many other deaths are implied or shown to some degree or another. But if you enjoyed other comic book movies, I suggest you give this one a try. It is very much an example of some of the best elements of comics and science fiction. And it is also a good example for what great comic movie adaptations could be by simply involving the writer and creators who established these characters. Remember, these aren’t just funny book superheroes. They are the closest thing we have to modern mythology.

As for me… tomorrow is the day for new shipments at the local comic shop. I might just have to buy the New Frontier graphic novel.

see ya,

~ADAM