Points of Impact – February 2012 – Week 2

Long time no write, but it’s no use dwelling upon that sad fact. Life happens and we get carried off to unknown parts sometimes.

I thought I’d kick off the renaissance by introducing a new regular (I hope!) feature spotlighting what are the points that had the most impact on me script-wise in my weekly comic haul. I thought I’d proceed as such: name one thing that really surprised me by how good it was (I loved…), one thing that made me smile (I liked…), and one thing that frustrated me because I know the guy or gal is better than that (I was disappointed by…). And no, you’ll never see me do any I hated… because what would be the point in throwing a tantrum?

Ready for the first one? Let’s go!

I loved…

Conan the Barbarian #1 coverThe tone of Brian Wood’s CONAN THE BARBARIAN #1 – When I first heard that Brian Wood was going to pen the script for the new Conan series at Dark Horse, I knew it was the right moment to get into the notorious barbarian’s adventures. Contrary to your probable expectations, I knew of Wood’s writing through THE NEW YORK FOUR and its sequel THE NEW YORK FIVE, not through to thematically closer NORTHLANDERS. I had already been charmed by the way he can craft engaging and natural-sounding dialogue. This comic is… quite the opposite, to say the least. It is however a perfect fit for conferring that pulpy epic feel that the narrative needs. Let’s face it: we’re talking about grim fantasy fare here, not Blackberry-obsessed college girls. If you can’t go for natural contemporary sensibility, you better go all-out with the the epicness – which is delivered in spades.

Here, taste this sample:

Page 1 (5 panels)

Panel 1

CAPTION: Messantia, capital of Argus.

CAPTION: Like a gilded pearl glittering against the cobalt waters of the Western ocean.

Panel 2

CAPTION: A city of aristocracy, of the rule of law and the justice system.

CAPTION: A city where great merchant villas adorning terraces high in the hills look down over…

Panel 3

CAPTION: …grimy hovels bordering the quays, crime-infested bazaars where the abstract corruption of the upper classes translates down to a knife lodged in the ribs of a man dying in a dark alley.

Panel 4

NO COPY

Panel 5

CAPTION: Conan the Cimmerian does no notice this divide.

Page 2-3 (splash spread)

CAPTION: This barbarian from the north is busy riding for his life.

The most interesting thing about this is that Brian Wood is in fact adapting the original novelette QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST by Robert E. Howard, breaking down the prose into more digestible captions and dialogue for the comic while preserving the feel and tone of the original. The result is a magnificient homage to pulp literature instead of yet another watered-down modern adaptation. I strongly urge you to have a look at the writer’s commentary track on CBR for more details.

Here, have another sample straight from the book:

Also bonus points for Becky Cloonan’s character designs for Conan. Finally someone lets go of the Frazetta imagery and Schwarzenegger portayal to show a more plausible character. “Barbarian” was his origin, not his job. This isn’t Dungeons & Dragons!

I liked…

The witty dialogue in Adam Glass’ SUICIDE SQUAD #6 – You’ll have to forgive me for quoting a Monty Python sketch but: “There is only one thing in the world worse than being witty, and that is not being witty.” If there’s one thing that the comics world doesn’t lack, it’s witty people. Unfortunately, not all of of these people get to write dialogue. I wince at times when I read some of what passes for clever repartee, lines that would find a better fit in a 90s made-for-TV action movie than in a medium that should pride itself in part for its writing. Well to be completely honest, I don’t wince that much, I do groan more than I’d like, but most of the time I just go with the obligatory and unenthusiastic “heh”.

Such was not the case for this month’s SUICIDE SQUAD offering. This time, I replaced the “heh” with a heartfelt “Ha!”

After killing a roomful of Harley Quinn male impersonators (don’t ask)
SAVANT: Man, this is going to make for some *weird* chalk outlines.

DEADSHOT: Mind repeating that…
Gun pointed at SAVANT’s groin
DEADSHOT: …in a slightly higher voice?

Interrogating siamese twins (again don’t ask)
DEADSHOT: So… which one of you is the smart half?

Granted, the characterization of the Joker has something that felt slightly off to me but still, you can’t fault a comic when it has this line in it:

KING SHARK: Kill more clowns.

I was disappointed by…

The disjointed narrative in J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman’s BATWOMAN #6 – Oh how the mighty have slightly slipped half a point down my imaginary ladder of excellence. It’s not much of a drop, but when you start at such a lofty position as the first five issues of BATWOMAN occupied, it can’t help but feel like a huge disappointment, even though the comic is still very, very good.

The problem? This comic is literally ALL OVER the place. Every scene switch is a new jump in time as well as change in character POV.

Pages 1-3: Batwoman, now
Pages 2- 4: Colonel Jacob Kane, one month ago
Pages 5-6: Detective Maggie Sawyer, one week ago
Pages 7-8: Maro, four months ago
Pages 9-10: Kate Kane, three weeks ago
Pages 11-20: Chase and Batwoman, two weeks ago
Page 21: Batwoman, now

Now if the POVs had been limited to one or two characters of if the jumps always moved forward in time, it wouldn’t have been so disturbing. Not to mention that DC’s habit of slipping in ad pages at every two pages is not helping keeping up with the screwed up timetable at all. As it is, it’s a confusing narrative that forces you to manage an unwieldy timeline thus taking you completely out of the story. Reading comics should be an experience that engages your reader naturally, not something that requires more concentration than channel surfing. I’m not saying it should be mindless entertainment, but “what the hell is happenin right now” shouldn’t be one of the enlightening questions to occupy my mind as I’m reading.

And seriously, guys, you did this just as Amy Reeder was starting on her turn drawing the comic. Not cool at all.

That’s all for now! Come back next week for some new Points of Impact!

2 thoughts on “Points of Impact – February 2012 – Week 2

  1. “Also bonus points for Becky Cloonan’s character designs for Conan. Finally someone lets go of the Frazetta imagery and Schwarzenegger portayal to show a more plausible character.”

    Strangely, as much as I love Schwrzenegger’s Conan, when ever I lose my eyes and picture Conan, its John Buscema’s version.

    • Despite Buscema’s undeniable mastery of drawing, his stylistic choice for Conan is still to depict him as a muscle-bound strongman. It’s a shame that most artists have turned to body builders for reference when drawing super heroes and other physically powerful characters when other body types (football players, swimmers, gymnasts, rock climbers, etc.) might provide more plausible reference for people who are supposedly always running around, climbing, fighting and so on.

      And that’s what I like about Cloonan’s Conan: he’s a lean, mean, enemy-crushing, lamentation-hearing machine!

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