“The World has rules, created by those who consider themselves above them. So we became radicals, who accepted neither.” — Jonathan Hickman’s THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS VOL 2
THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS VOL 2- I find writer Jonathan Hickman’s work very hit and miss. Quite frankly more miss than hit, while always filled with elaborate and imaginative ideas, his work generally lacks an emotional quotient, an emotional core, to make it worth reading.
His writing then becomes simple extrapolations of the head, that lack heart. Cold and off-putting works. I find this of almost all of his mainstream work that I have tried, SECRET AVENGERS, FANTASTIC FOUR, his current AVENGERS work I find unreadable dreck, with nothing to keep anyone emotionally interested or invested.
His Indie work can be likewise a gamble. Volume 1 of his Image series THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS was okay, if unremarkable. However I’m glad to say Volume 2 is much better, as Hickman is finally starting to pull taut the threads of his story.
The art by Nick Pitarra does a lot of the heavy lifting, with fun sight gags and panels that makes this far more entertaining than arguably the words or script alone would convey. I point you to the panel of the oval office orgy (say that three times fast 🙂 )for proof of that.
So lifted up on Pitarra’s visuals Hickman’s MANHATTAN PROJECTS VOL 2 is finally starting to hit its stride. And while Volume 1 is okay to read, it is not necessary, you could just pick up Volume 2, as it brings you up to speed pretty quickly. Grade: B. Worth a Purchase.
PODCAST OF THE DAY : House To Astonish 120 – Nice discussion of comic and movie news. A Black actor playing one of the Fantastic Four in the upcoming movie? FLAME-ON! :).
Possibly not the choice that would have come to me, but the actor, script, and director will determine if its a great, inspired idea, or a mediocre one. I give them the benefit of the doubt. Idris Elba in Thor was a great decision, as was Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury, so this could be a great idea too.
I’m just going through some of my old comics, and am catching up on John Byrne’s run on FANTASTIC FOUR.
It has to be years since I’ve looked through some of these books, but some of the images and lines are ever quotable in my head.
But Byrne’s run, beyond the sound-bytes in my head, not only holds up, but reread it remains just fantastic comics (no pun intended).
John Byrne will be the first to praise Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s seminal run on the Fantastic Four, and I am a huge fan of that run, but John Byrne’s FF is all that magic just polished a bit, and is my personal favorite. It’s a phenomenal body of work with Byrne both penciling and writing. It does peter out a bit in his last couple years on the book, but those first 3 years from issue 232 to roughly issue 270, are just essential comics.
And all the more impressive because this was one man, writing, penciling, and often inking these comics, a crushing workload to try and do monthly… any one of those things, how he managed to do all three for YEARS, (and do all three brilliantly, this wasn’t today’s hack artist or writer just throwing anything at the wall. Byrne was bringing his A game every issue) is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Whatever you think of Byrne the man, for his often abrasive opinions, Byrne the creator is the real friggin deal. He’s the Iron Man (As in Cal Ripken, not Tony Stark) of comics, and Fantastic Four is the best of a lauded and laudable body of work.
If you’ve never read the issues, I highly recommend picking up the recently released John Byrne FANTASTIC FOUR OMNIBUS here!
35 praised films that completely disappointed me
TRIANGLE- 1st 15 mins is intriguing, once they hit the ship, tedious does not begin to describe it. A 30 minute twilight zone episode stretched to feature length
TAKING OF PELHAM 123 2009- See the original instead
HOSTAGE- fantastic opening credit sequence but goes down hill from there
There Will Be Blood (2007)- despised it. See instead GIANT or NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.
HURT LOCKER- overrated and ultimately empty. See instead GREEN ZONE.
Rogue- Insipid, boring and idiotic crocodile film.
Primevil- Crocodile movie. Mediocre
From Within (2008)- Intriguing beginning that unfortunately paints itself into a haphazard and unsatisfying conclusion. Suicide, religious fundamentalism, witchcraft, and mysterious deaths, intriguing build up that chokes on the ending. See instead THE CHILDREN
The Abandoned (2006)- looks great, but ultimately pointless and empty. See instead SAUNA
PREDATORS- Weak script, weak performances, Adrian Brody is miscast and offers a poor performance. See instead PREDATOR, PREDATOR II, or ENEMY MINE
DOG SOLDIERS- moronic characters, poor writing, uninteresting direction, see instead DESCENT
THE MIST- just overblown acting, and an ending that was drained of any impact. stick to the audio book, it’s far, FAR better. See instead IT.
REC 2- Awful sequel, that gets wrong everything that worked about the original. See instead REC or ROMANSANTA
Drag Me to Hell (2009)- I found it okay, to a little less than okay. Beginning was very good but It lost me somewhere in the middle and never got me back. The whole seance/possession thing I found completely idiotic. See instead EVIL DEAD 1, EVIL DEAD 2
DARKNESS and NAMELESS- not horrible, quite intense and effective in places, but undermined by too much cliches, stupid character actions and poor endings. In general just poor writing
DAY NIGHT DAY NIGHT- This is a very compelling film through most of its run time, but just completely collapses at the end. “Let me show you my abs”? Really??? WTF? That’s your ending?! Made me mad and ruined an otherwise strong film.
KING OF THE HILL (Spanish)- Beautiful looking film, not bad, just not satisfying, and questionable plot contrivances, but not a bad film. But put here because not as great as it has been touted.
CREEP- brain-dead mutated Subway killer flick
SIN CITY- misogynistic, reductive tripe. Absolute garbage.
NATURAL BORN KILLERS- One of my most disliked films. Right up there with SIN CITY.
SHOOT EM UP- It just bored me
MR. BROOKS- Way underwhelming, bordering on mediocre “serial killer with a twist” flick. See instead the fantastic, but vitually unknown Jeff Goldblum flick, MISTER FROST.
DISTURBIA- A poor man’s REAR WINDOW, not horrible, just not good.
THE DEVIL’S REJECTS- Stylish and well made, just morally offensive and bankrupt. Zombie’s viewpoint is to sympathize and root for the serial killers rather than the victims or law enforcement. He even does this with HALLOWEEN… not something I buy into,,, ever
BATMAN BEGINS- Interesting beginning, tedious middle, stupid ending. See instead BATMAN (1989) or THE DARK KNIGHT(Only Nolan movie I like)
MACHINIST- Brad Anderson directs intriguing films, that tend to either spin wheels to a telegraphed conclusion (SOUNDS LIKE), or tread water to an empty forgettable conclusion(SESSION 9 and MACHINIST)
BUG- It tries for Cronenberg body horror, but marries that to just an annoying and tedious storyline
Dead Silence (2007)- average to bad, see instead MAGIC or DOLLS
INCEPTION- Don’t get me started, I’ve discussed Nolan and the emperor’s clothes enough
PUNISHER- Thomas Jane version— ugggh, see instead PUNISHER the Lundgren version, reviled by many it’s actually an impressive flick
10 derided films that I enjoy!
SKELETON KEY- hugely underrated New Orleans Gothic tinged horror film
THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL- absolutely adore this movie. One of my favorites.
WAR OF THE WORLDS (Remake)- Yeah it’s a fad to bash Tom Cruise. But fads aside he’s a fantastic actor, and this is a strong flick.
HANCOCK- Horrible name for a movie, horrible posters, box art, horrible marketing. But under all this damaging comedy labeling, is actually quite a compelling and strong film, with a great third act. Rename this THE INSURANCE POLICY (OF THE GODS), use some serious marketing and posters, and you could re-release this to DVD and continue to clean up on this film (it made in theaters over 300 million domestically).
FF- I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it, it was nice goofy fun, and enjoyed it a lot more than the dire SIN CITY or BATMAN BEGINS
JUDGE DREDD- everyone agrees the comedy relief, courtesy of so-called comedian Rob Schneider was a horrendously bad idea, but there are some fantastic iconic scenes in this film, the best is Max Von Sydow’s walk into the Cursed Earth. Movie is worth it for that scene alone.
TRANSFORMERS 2- Not great, but definitely good and visually stunning.
PISTOL WHIPPED- I liked this Seagal straight to DVD flick the first time I saw it, but every single time I’ve seen it since, I like it more. Plus a fantastic opening credit sequence, and a solid ending. A lot of fun. “You cremated now MFer!”
“You writers live too much out of the world.”
— Carol Reed’s THIRD MAN.
I just heard about Mr. McDuffie’s passing.
We had exchanged emails, a couple weeks ago, about doing an interview.
I wanted to discuss his work and discuss how DC Editorial had hampered his comic book work on JLA (as well as Marvel on FF), and the success of his animation work, and his future plans.
Life being life and we all being immortal, I had put off following up on the interview until we had more time.
Needless to say, time and tide continues to surprise us all.
A towering individual, not only in terms of height (he was 6’7″) but in terms of talent, and enthusiasm, he will be greatly missed by me and many.
I think in a medium that is ever less inclusive, that is going backwards rather than forwards (how DC and Marvel treated him is part and parcel of people who consider themselves liberal but are not, holding ever more egregious lines of pride and prejudice), he was a rare voice against the inherent prejudice, tokenism, and marginalization of people and more the presentation of people.
He had this outrageous idea that these tales of modern myth, could support more than the single token, and tokenized, character of color and instead provide a multiplicity of characters of color. In a medium that still follows to great degree the Disney model of segregation and marginalization, he wanted the myths and the mythmakers… to be better than that.
And to this end he made fantastic inroads into redefining the myths we feed our kids through shows like STATIC SHOCK and JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED, and with the latter expanding the scope/expectations of American televised animation. JLU is very much a cartoon that appeals to adults who grew up on these characters, as well as kids, and offers a storyline with scope. And remains a watershed work.
It is therefore sad, and inexplicable that with such a pedigree, the editorial department of DC and Marvel, refused to grant his comic work the same license and freedom as his Animation work, and all readers are the poorer for that… sabotage. DC’s actions seemingly more about getting the Milestone characters, completely under thumb, to no doubt like other multi-cultural friendly properties, such as ZUDA, be misused, marginalized and ultimately taken off the table, and buried from the sight of day.
I love all these keepers of a 50s status quo, of the white way, particularly at DC Comics Publishing wing, who come out now in the wake of his passing to praise McDuffie’s work, when they did nothing but their best to butcher his work while alive. Hypocrisy. Be honest now, in your heart of hearts, be honest. You stink just a little of hypocrisy.
Save your pretty lies, and if true sorrow feel, show it in your actions, and not in your primping words.
You did wrong by him in life, do right by him in death, and in so doing, do right by yourself.
Learn the contours of your own prejudice and your own culpability, so you can get past it. Be more open to characters and creators of color. use well the Milestone characters, and support diversity in your mainstream books. Stop trying to erase the good creators have done with characters of color, with Marvel it’s them tearing down all the great work Christopher Priest did (instead of making his BLACK PANTHER and CREW work available again, and better yet getting him back on BLACK PANTHER, Marvel seems committed to killing or marginalizing every strong male Black Character they have), with DC it’s them going back to the 50s in terms of all their mainstream characters.
Don’t wait till someone’s demise, to realize you’ve stunted not only their growth, but by doing so your growth, and my growth, and everyone’s. When new visions are sabotaged, the medium suffers. And the medium has suffered with the interference in Duffie’s comic book work.
But in the face of that, one ever to go forward, to shine lights, rather than curse darknesses, Dwayne McDuffie continued to tell stories. His recent CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS, being the best of the DC Animated Adaptations, and his Animated ABSOLUTE SUPERMAN on my list to see.
So Animation and comics has lost a great ambassador, proponent and crafter for these four colored adventures, but more it has lost a fighter against ignorance, and intolerance and stupidity and stereotyping, in a medium filled with too many people, too many editors and writers and decision makers, who live and die only by these inanities.
But for this one fighter lost, McDuffie’s work has served to introduce many to these fields of wonders and whimsy, and hopefully to inspire new mythmakers and new myths.
My best to him and his, as he precedes us into the Mystery.
I’m going to direct you to this recent 2 pt podcast interview with Christopher Priest, coutesy of the guys at Dollcast, as it touches a bit on Milestone, and is just an invaulable insight into a medium, that while little read, becomes ever more influential to other mediums.
Here’s PART I.
Here’s PART II
And once you listen to that feel free to go here for a listing of books written by Dwayne McDuffie.
Today, five years after its cinema release, I finally got around to watching 2005’s FANTASTIC FOUR directed by Tim Story.
I have had the DVD for some time now, I got it as a gift, but based on a/ The across the board scathing reviews the movie had garnered and b/ the underwhelming sense that the cast and previews filled me with… I had no interest or intention of viewing this film/DVD.
I immediately put it online to resell. Fast-Forward a couple years, and the DVD hasn’t sold and is still taken up valuable space in my abode. I’m looking around for a DVD to make me feel halfway clean again after sitting through a particularly dire film, 1978’s extremely odd, THE MAFU CAGE (avoid).
So I unwrap the DVD of the FANTASTIC FOUR (still in its original plastic) pop in in, and prepare for some campiness just to wash away the MAFU CAGE.
Instead of a diversion, I find, much to my surprise quite an entertaining movie, with some indeed fantastic set pieces.
I found the film exciting, fun, action packed, well performed and well directed. None of which the vicious reviews would lead you to believe.
And yes the film does make changes to the source material, but that is a film’s right and to a great extent its duty. You want the comic, go read the comic (I’m a huge fan of the original Lee-Kirby run, as well as some of the books from the 70s, and definitely Bryne’s stories of the 80s), this is a movie and the adaptation is ultimately its own beast and must answer to different criteria and different expectations.
And that’s something this film does, and does well. Prior to seeing this film, I personally wouldn’t have cast Tim Story as Director, for the simple fact that it is directors more than anything else that defines a film for me, and while succesfull in BARBERSHOP, there is nothing in that pedigree that screams he could handle a huge budget Action/FX flick.
The same reservations extended to the cast for me. Particularly Jessica Alba, struck me initially as miscast for the pivotal role of Sue Storm.
And having seen the film I can now say both reservations were unwarranted. Jessica Alba isn’t the Sue Storm of the comics, just as the film’s Doom isn’t the Doom of the comics, etc. And you know what… that’s perfectly fine. Because the characters they do craft work very nicely in the confines of a summer movie Blockbuster. Jessica is hot and young, and she fills out a skin tight suit very well, and she’s equally adept at filling theater seats with the requisite warm blooded young guys. And there’s nothing wrong with that. And beyond that I thought she gave a good performance. True to this movie’s version of Sue Storm.
And the changes work for the story they want to tell. I really enjoyed the movie, it had some real wit to it, courtesy of Chris Evans in many scenes, and the story progresses briskly, and the action rousing and larger than life.
It was a fun, fun movie. Tim Story rising to the challenge (and make no mistakes that’s what it was… a challenge). Producers looking at his abiliy to quintuple BARBERSHOPS’s budget of $12000000, give him a budget nearly ten times of that for this movie, expecting lightning to strike again.
The problem with that is… its unlikely. It is the Peter Principle in effect. A director who is brilliant at bringing in a movie at one budget and one genre, taken out of his comfort zone and asked to repeat his success.
It’s quite frankly from the get-go a recipe for lack of consumer confidence. It is also a recipe for failure.
But to Tim Story’s and the casts credit, they pull it off, manage to make money with the film, and tell a tale that I found quite entertaining.
The 2007 FF followup, again subject to scathing reviews, and while that makes less money still manages to break even via domestic sales alone.
And getting back to the 2005 FF, the cast is great, particularly Chris Evans.
Unfortunately for Tim Story I think the damage is done. Per the Peter Principle he was advanced to his level of (assumed)incompetance, so now his star is in definite decline.
Which is a shame because I think with FF he showed he was a filmmaker of some versatility and would have liked to see a third film with this cast. He would have been better off bulding his reputation gradually rather than following the dollar into potentially a career ending couple of films.
You see that particular dynamic more and more, of the disposable director. Producers instead of getting an established director for these films, hire these video directors and untried directors, that they can get cheap, and if necessary use as a scapegoat should the pic not make the return expected.
Tim Story has become the focus point for I think undeserved negative reaction, to a film that end of the day I found far more enjoyable than such ‘celebrated’ flicks as SIN CITY or BATMAN BEGINS.
Final Grade on FF: C+/B-. It’s a good natured movie, with real heart. Performed and crafted by people with love, passion, and a little bit of fun. And I’ll take a movie like that over the cynical, brutal, pessimistic fare, that too many people equate with quality.
Heart, baby. The whole world is crying out for movies with a little bit of heart and a lot of fun, and this movie has both in spades. And that counts for a lot with me. And the DVD offeres a great commentary with the cast. It’s one thing to have not seen the movie, but to have seen the movie and not been able to enjoy it and have fun with it, as it is, for what it is, says sad things about the viewer I think, rather than the viewed.