June 28, 2006

Fresh fodder for the comics mill

When DC launched the whole run up to Infinite Crisis, one of the better (and more enjoyable) things to come out of it were some of the new mini-series they introduced – such as Villains United, Day of Vengeance and The OMAC Project. These comics gave the chance for not often seen, second-string (or third or even fourth-string) characters to have their day in the sun. Since these characters didn’t have all the baggage of the main characters, I actually liked the storylines a lot.

Now, post Crisis, DC has been launching new mini-series starring the same characters. First they introduced, the Shadowpact, then the Secret Six and in July it’s going to be the turn of OMAC 🙂 This week, they are also releasing DCU: Brave New World which is actually going to be the precursor for six new mini-series from DC, one of which is going to be the aforementioned "OMAC". Looks as if many changes are on the way for DC characters and lot of money to be shelled out from the pockets of comics characters. Hope I have the time to read all this stuff :p

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Posted by Fahim at 6:46 am  |  No Comments

February 23, 2006

The not so marvellous side of Marvel

I saw the previews for "Civil War" today and I must say that I have a sinking feeling in my stomach again :p Of late, Marvel just seems to be trailing behind their Distinguished Counterparts and simply playing a game of catch up – but never succeeding to actually do so. Of late, as I keep on writing, DC seems to do much better at telling stories via comics than Marvel can.

First DC had "Identity Crisis". Sure, the ending could have been done better but still, the story was good and it kept you reading month after month and kept you guessing. Then they had the whole "Countdown to Infinite Crisis" storylines which I found to be rather engrossing and introduced some rather good new characters, or brought minor characters back into the spotlight. I especially liked how most of the characters involved in those four mini-series grew and the hints dropped about how they will continue to grow. Then came "Infinite Crisis" itself. At first, I was a bit sceptical of "Infinite Crisis" as it seemed to riff on the original "Crisis on Infinite Earths" but as the story progressed, I see where the similarities came from and why they were needed – they were portents, clues as to what was coming. I still haven’t seen how it all turns out but the story is good and, to me at least, seems even better than the original "Crisis on Infinite Earths".

On the other hand, what has Marvel done recently? First they had, "Avengers Disassembled" which was all about killing off some of their major characters and churning up stuff for the sake of churning up stuff. Then they went on from their to "House of M" which seemed to be their attempt to steal the thunder from DC’s "Infinite Crisis" but it turned out to be rather a damp squib. Again, there were major explosions, people get killed, people lose powers but there seems to be no movement forward for the characters themselves. Then came Spidey’s "The Other" – again not the best Spider-Man story written – in fact, after the events, instead of feeling buoyed by it all, I feel reluctant to read any more Spidey comics … and he used to be one of my favourite characters! (Spider-Man still is one of my favourites – just not under the present batch of writers and the present storyline) Despite the fanfare of a new beginning, all I see is the same old guy, the changes are more statements than fact that you see in the story itself – it’s all tell, no show :p

And now we have "Civil War" coming up. The previews shows Nitro blowing up a school bus and perhaps a ground full of school kids. Appropriate for Marvel these days. They go for the big, "Oooh, look at all those kids blown up!" kind of reaction than the little personal touches. I’ll certainly read "Civil War" to see how it shapes up (eventually) but unless they make a shift in storytelling style, I think the days are gone when I said, "Make mine Marvel!"

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Posted by Fahim at 7:49 am  |  No Comments

February 3, 2006

The Distinguished Competition and the Marvels of comics

I think I wrote a while back about how I really liked what DC was doing with their various comics. I also wrote about how I picked up a couple of Marvel titles after that and found that surprisingly, I liked them too. That was over a year ago. Since that time, my perception of comics (both Marvel and DC) has changed again.

Originally, I wasn’t so sure about "Infinite Crisis" since it seemed to be just another effort to cash in on the old "Crisis on Infinite Earths" twenty years later. But as the story progressed, it has become interesting, engrossing and I love how the story affects so many corners of the DC universe. I just finished reading the "Rann-Thanagar War Infinite Crisis Special" and all I can say is "Wow!" One of the changes I’d hated about the new DC universe was that Hal Jordan was back (not to mention the way he made the entrance – decking Batman, eerily similar to how Batman decked Guy Gardner when the JLI was formed. That seemed like a cheap shot on the part of Geoff Johns to me but YMMV). I actually liked Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern way more than I’d liked Hal Jordan and now that Hal was back, it looked as if Kyle was going to take a back seat. But the "Rann-Thanagar Special" shows that Kyle is going off in a completely new direction and Ron Marz is writing the story. Wow! Double wow!! (Yeah, I like Rayner, think Jordan never amounted to much – get over it :p)

While all that (and more) is going on with DC, what about Marvel? They actually seem to be sinking again. The "Young Avengers" started off well but now seems to be bogged down in the sexual choices of the characters and some weird Skrull storyline at the moment. It’s stopped being fresh and new. Marvel did the whole "House of M" thing which did nothing for me – I’d hoped that they’d at least bring Hawkeye back and while there are hints that he might be back, we don’t know for sure. The "Thunderbolts" have again gotten really convoluted and uninteresting. Peter Parker’s life is being turned upside down in Spider-man and I’m not really sure that’s a good. Basically, Marvel seems to be making waves just to be making waves or trying to play catch up with DC and not really concentrating on writing good stories. Now I hear that they have a "new" cross-over event coming up, "Civil War" and that Spidey’s going to get a new costume designed by Iron Man – wahoo. Yeah, doesn’t really spark much interest. But let’s see what the new year brings, maybe they’ll surprise me …or maybe not :p

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Posted by Fahim at 7:54 am  |  No Comments

April 8, 2005

Serious comics

I’ve written here before about my love of comics and while I had not read comics since around the beginning of the new millennium, I got back to comics about a year ago. At first, I was simply catching up with old stuff or simply finding old comics that I’d wanted to read but had not had the chance to before. But recently, I started reading the comics which are coming out at the moment – the fresh stuff and boy was I in for a surprise 🙂

Somewhere in between the time I stopped reading comics and started reading them again, they seem to have somehow gotten a lot more edgier and more realistic. The first of the new breed that I started reading was DC‘s "Identity Crisis". I suddenly saw old familiar characters portrayed in a new light – they weren’t just super-heroes with incredible powers but normal people like you and I, people with powers sure, but also people with their own vulnerabilities and foibles. Not perfect people by any stretch of imagination – simply people. I was enthralled by this new direction that the comics were taking and got a few more comics – read some more and was beginning to like the way things were going.

However, all the new comics I’d read had been from DC. My original allegiances in comic had been more Marvel than DC. Most of my favourites came from Marvel but they’d also been the reason for me giving up comics a few years back – they’d tried to make things more "realistic" by killing off some of the most beloved (at least beloved to me) characters around and I’d just not liked their experiments. Around this time, Marvel was doing another one of their radical changes – a major story arc which (brutally) changed one of the most established super-hero groups in the Marvel Universe. I was thinking of picking up this story arc and reading it when I heard that one of my most favourite characters dies in that arc and that was it, it felt just like when I’d stopped reading comics earlier and I decided to give Marvel a wide berth and concentrate on DC, who seemed to have better story-telling and better direction anyway.

The original Marvel story arc I was talking about (in case anybody is wondering, it’s "Avengers Disassmebled"), ended and they started a new comic, "New Avengers". I picked up a couple of issues of the comic out of curiosity but still didn’t read it since I still didn’t feel like following a story from the company that killed one of my most favourite heroes. Then Marvel came out with "Young Avengers" and since this was a totally new group of heroes and a totally new comic where I had nothing invested in emotionally (yes, I get worked up about comics :p) I decided to give it a shot and I was pleasantly surprised! It had humour, it had freshness and it was even better than the current stuff from DC – yes, others might disagree with me here but I’m talking about me, not others :p It turned out that the guy who wrote "Young Avengers" -Allan Heinberg – had also written for "Gilmore Girls", one of my favourite TV shows! (Incidentally, that could start a whole other thread of thought about how comics seem to be attracting well-known writers from other fields such as Kevin Smith and Joss Wheadon of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fame – Laurie reminded me later of also Orson Scott Card who is writing "Ultimate Iron Man" … but perhaps another time)

What did happen was that I enjoyed the "Young Avengers" so much that I finally gave the "New Avengers" a try and actually liked how they were written and then went on to read a few more Marvel comics and what do you know, I’m hooked again 🙂 Marvel is doing good stuff with some of their characters and now DC’s got some good story lines going too and then DC announced "Countdown" :p Now, I’m not really sure about "Countdown" – if any comic book fans are reading this, you’d know about DC’s "Crisis on Infinite Earths" back in 1985 where they had a major 12-part series which redefined their universe. Now, 20 years later on their 70th anniversary, DC is doing it again with "Countdown". Heck, they are even calling it "Countdown to Infinite Crisis" :p

I had not read "Crisis on Infinite Earths" till now (though I’d been hearing about it for ages and I’d read both pre-crisis and post-crisis Superman) and I finally did. Now that I’ve read it, the first preludes to "Countdown" seem hauntingly familiar in certain senses – you have the Blue Beetle playing a major role, the villains uniting, the spectre taking a hand and so on – there is even a lot of emphasis on the character of Dr. Light! But will it play out the same? Will this be somebody at DC saying "this is our chance to correct Crisis on Infinite Earths" which was in its own right a correction/update to the DC universe? Or will this play out differently and will we be presented with a new, more mature DC universe? I don’t know … only time, and the unfolding of the story, will tell 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 3:01 pm  |  2 Comments

April 29, 2004

My Favourite Waste of Time …

Actually, what my favourite waste of time is, is a question since there are so many :p As I mentioned in the previous post, of late, the problem has been finding the time to do anything because I seem to have accumulated a lot of ways to waste time 🙂 And the funny thing is, that in the beginning I actually seemed to have the time for all of this but suddenly I find that I have so many things to do and not enough time to do it all in. I blame the Internet :p

You think that’s an exaggeration? Not at all. Just take a look at the list of my most recent wastes of time and you’ll see why I blame the Net. First there are the TV shows. I had a few shows that I loved when I was in the US but once I got back to Sri Lanka, I ever gave up hope of seeing those shows. Then came one fine day when I realized that all these shows are available on the Net for download and all I had to do was get them off the Net and I could keep up with the shows almost as soon as they were aired in the US! So now I’m busily watching 24, Gilmore Girls, Monk, Smallville and Star Gate whenever there is a new show and that keeps me busy through the week 🙂 Actually, in the case of Gilmore Girls, we actually get the fourth season (which is on air in the US as well) here in Sri Lankan television but they are a bit behind in Sri Lanka and so I prefer to get my show from online and then watch it again when it goes on TV :p

Then there were the comics. Again, something I’d had access to in abundance when I was in the US. Here, it’s hard to get your hands on comics. Then I discover that that too is available online for download :p Not only that, but I discovered that I could get hard to find collections like Marvel’s "Infinity War" or the "Infinity Gauntlet" or any of DC’s Elseworld’s titles, fairly easily online. The only problem? They seem to be either archives of JPG collections or files in the comic book reader format (CBZ or CBR), which are just renamed ZIP or RAR files. I simply hate having to go through JPG collections and reading it file by file – yeah, nothing to get so upset about but call me finicky :p So, what I do is extract all the JPG files from their archives and then use Adobe Professional to combine them all in one PDF file which I name a specific way and then add to my collection. Yes, I’m anal and I create most of my own work :p

The latest waste of time came about of course when I discovered that I could get old DOS games from the Net and better yet, get their Amiga versions which look better and even play better as long as you can configure the Amiga emulator correctly. So now, I sit at home on an evening playing Lemmings when I don’t have a comic to go through or a TV show to watch 🙂

And those are just the latest of my wastes of time 🙂 There are the existing ones like watching movies – I just bought 13 DVD’s last Saturday since the pirate DVD trade is booming in Sri Lanka and you can buy the latest Hollywood releases for something like US$ 3 :p And guess how many of those 13 movies I’ve seen so far? One! Yeah, there just is too little time in the world :p