Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Unremembered - Book Review

The Unremembered (By Peter Orullian) pulled a pretty dirty trick on me by having an opening chapter that pressed all the right buttons for me, then completely switched gears to a flat, contrived story. In fact, that is my one word review of this novel: contrived.

The opening chapter is solid. We’re introduced to a being of god-like power (o), who has gotten a little nuts (o), is quite angry (o), and is about to be punished in a unique way that won’t kill (o), allowing him to come back even more powerful and angry (o) once he breaks his prison. See all those buttons? I settled right in! I’m of the opinion that nothing is more interesting than crazy gods. Stories of Greek Myth retain great power, yes? Yes.

Right, then we’re introduced to the actual main character of the book, a young boy from a small (about to be destroyed town, though it doesn't happen) with a mysterious past, named Tahn Junell. His friend is the comedic relief, who never speaks except to make a bad joke, along with the book nerd friend who actually doesn’t know much, and a sister that works hard to destroy any enjoyment a reader might get from this story by being against all the fun / cool action, preferring instead to coddle children as her obsessive, overbearing motherly instincts dictate. Soon another mysterious person comes into town, with a really attractive young girl, who tells our heroes next to nothing yet they all leave on a mysterious journey soon anyway. I'm not naming the characters because you already know their names. These are not unique constructs. Will the next chapter be about the interesting gods? Hey, maybe we could go back and forth? That’d be ok.

No. The entire reason I picked up this book is only ever vaguely mentioned at for the remainder ("Creators be praised!" or some dumb thing). I held hope because the world itself had some (for me) unique fantasy elements to it. I was really intrigued by the Far. Spent quite a bit of time wondering how they worked. Unfortunately the bland, one dimensional, afore mentioned characters just stomp right through the world. I felt like a prisoner reading. Some reprieve was so close… I’d hope someone would ask anything about the cities, or magic, or ancient people. No. Tahn asks the same question repeatedly throughout the entire novel even though it was addressed as well as it ever will be in the very beginning.

The few stops only serve to force an understanding of each characters chief attribute.  Dying people are held until their last breaths, begging that their ideals be preserved, and our characters, with no real grasp of what they’re talking about, swear oaths (it was always plural) that they defend good and justice and… Everyone had this contest going of who could be the more stereotypical goody-goody fantasy character. It was nauseating. Evil minions call out cryptic taunts as though everyone knows what they’re talking about. Tahn and company adamantly stay stupid. Which the world challenges them on. But though they accidentally tap into some incredible inner power, they’re quick to turn away from it, refusing to ask the All-Knowing guide anything or make use of it.

The end poses the question of if this seemingly innocent young boy can possible defeat the ultimate evil with the help of his friends. I could not care less. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New 52 - Comic Review

DC's relaunch of all their comics. The New 52

Nothing is more instantly conducive to enjoying a book than seeing Jim Lee’s art. The man always picks a great angle, fills in with gorgeous detail, and tells the visual story elements so well. I don’t know if there’s anyone better. He’s prerogative on how characters should look, obviously done with a respect for them, even imbuing minor ones with slick esthetics, really creates a cohesive universe where I like every part of it.

Starring my two favorite members of the Justice League? Thank you. I’ve never really liked the Justice League because they were all too chummy, too obsessed with “what’s right”, and to be fair in the fight scenes, all anybody ever did was punch. All fixed. The dialogue is pretty exposition heavy, but it’s all done in character (I don’t think Batman would ever give free Intell to a non-trusted source, but that’s minor and I got over it fast) and, more importantly, is done while these guys are actually doing something. The whole story flies along like one would figure a story with superpowered (Metahuman in the DC Universe) people would vault from one great action moment to another. There are single sentences hinting at how the new DC Universe is going to play, and I love picking up the clues bit by bit. Metahumans aren’t trusted, Superman is on top of everyone’s list of suspicious people, and it feels very much like the League won’t be warmly accepted by humanity nor be the lovey family they were.

Green Lantern is cocky and poorly informed. It’s forgiven since he’s fun, both as a foil to Batman and in general just a decent guy enjoying his power. “You can do anything? Shit yeah man, just walk in there and go for it then”. Batman, my absolute favorite character. I think he’s always had hints of it, but it was infrequent that Batman was sarcastic. It’s needed here else Batman because everyone’s punching bag for lame jokes about how he never speaks. I love him. I can easily see him being the center of the League. He’s lively here, not the stoic Knight of the past.

The costumes weren’t a major departure. Now they seem to be actual armor, which helps me take the characters a bit more seriously. For liking comics as much as I do, I’ve always hated spandex costumes. The costume should reflect the personality of the wearer and some gaudy colors was a shallow way to do that. The ever stupid outside underwear has thankfully been removed. Overall style and distinction between the heroes is still there. Superman’s, in particular, impressed me. Significant change for him. It just looks good. Jim Lee is the man. And Superman came out strong. With Batman’s warning and his overwhelming entrance, I actually liked him. He felt a bit scary. As he should. The setup for next issue hooked me. I can’t wait for it.

Batman didn’t grab me like Justice League did. Up until the mid-point it was same as usual. The Batcave had all the same silly treasures, meaning Batman has the same silly past. The Villain team-up, even given the content that they were all breaking out of Arkham, just felt stale. Nothing in any of their personalities would ever allow them to form a team. And they’re already set in their ways and caught?  Aw… I’ll admit that Clayface’s “Professor Pig” costume got me. I came into this book expecting anything so points to Snyder and Capullo for having fun with it. I was dreading hearing anything about that new villain. Biggest trick by far was Dick Grayson’s. The thrill of coming up with a reason for that to be true made that gag work twice over. Worth buying the book for alone.

Bruce Wayne picks up more from how the “old” DC ended. Using Bruce’s persona to attack problems in Gotham on two fronts in place of the playboy pretending not be anything special. I loved the use of a portable Batcave (will it be called “Oracle”?). One, another joke. Yeah it’s old but when formally uptight Bruce Wayne does it, it’s funny all over again. Before Batman was interesting to read for the mystery, and I loved the dark theme, but now he’s enjoyable too. Like Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man, it’s a great just to spend time with Bruce, whatever he’s doing.

All big changes saved the end. I’m not taking what’s suggested at face value, but that’s enough of a twist to get me for issue 2.

Sidenote: it finally struck me as odd for Batman to be dragging a cape through a crime scene. Maybe that thing should retract? But at the cost of his evocative silhouette? I don’t know.

Ugh, terrible from the first text box. Piss-poor writing throughout. None of it made sense. It opens with Mr. Slade Wilson Deathstroke The Terminator standing a good few dozen feet from a group of badguys. Badguy Leader is using taunts ripped out of bad 90s movies. Deathstroke says “nut-uh” with a close-up of his glowing eye. SPLASH PAGE! He’s somehow in the middle of the group, from one jump, and they’re all dead… All of the splash pages either are a huge disconnect from what just happened or highlight how little physics has to do with Slade’s universe, such as when he ziplines with a zipline that isn’t connect to a point. Maybe his doohickey was motorized? The rational seems to be “he’s a badass”.

An incredible stupid team of killer teens was introduced to illustrate how the “anything goes environment” of DC can yield terrible jokes. Deathstroke has a man set-up jobs for him who is the complete opposite of Slade’s personality. He acts like a hype man but annoying. Offers Slade a job with no details, Slade says no, then cuts a fly in half with a paper-clip, then says yes. Splash Page!

Then it all ends. I reflect back that nothing really happened. Justice League fit so many different set pieces and story elements in. Deathstroke’s updated costume is, again armored, and looks good. I had trouble taking him seriously with his old boots and clown like ghillie suit, much as I liked the character. The ending promised Deathstroke doing nothing important for the foreseeable future. Perhaps this series is for the old DC fan who didn’t see anything wrong with the way things were. I’ll mourn for poor Slade Wilson.

Images Copyright DC Comics