Monday, June 20, 2016

Thoughts on the DC Rebirth

Honestly, if push comes to shove, I'm more of a Marvel guy than a DC guy. The first comics I ever bought were Marvel, and it took a few years for me to actually start buying some DC titles as well. (Keep in mind that I started reading regularly back in the sixth grade.) This doesn't mean that I think that Marvel is "better", it's just that I've gravitated more to the House that Stan and Jack Built more than the Distinguished Competition. With that said, it's strange that I've written more about the various developments at DC several times now while not writing too much about Marvel.

And this brings me to DC's latest initiative, which has been called Rebirth, which is kinda making me hate DC Comics. Is it because  the last major relaunch was a mere five years ago? Is it because it feels gimmicky? Is it due to the confusing continuity?

No, it's because I pretty much want to read everything that they're publishing. While I'm certain this problem will not be able to sustain itself for a long period of time, I'm finding myself intrigued by everything I've read so far, and I'm still looking forward to some titles. Oh, and did I mention that most of them come out twice a week? There's still plenty of stuff from Image, Boom, and IDW that I want to buy, not to mention the offerings from some random company owned by Disney. (And I should mention that company is still turning out great Star Wars comics.)

For those who aren't currently reading comics, or haven't been following the news of the relaunch, here's the brief synopsis of what's going on:

Less than five years ago, DC canceled its entire line and relaunched absolutely every title along with a bunch of new titles. There were 52 total, hence the name The New 52. It was a controversial move, and while there were definitely a lot of great comics to come out in that period (particularly Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo) overall a lot of fans, like myself, started to lose interest. While it might have helped to bring in a lot of new readers, I think that it might be safe to say that a lot of us felt like this new continuity was missing what we loved about DC Comics (even though we might not have realized that this is what we loved) and that's a sense of history. Or better put, the legacy of many classic characters had pretty much gone up in a puff of smoke. (The Flash is probably the one character who suffered the most from this.)

Rebirth isn't completely rebooting continuity so much as bringing back what was lost with the previous relaunch. It all started with a one-shot titled simply Rebirth, and I think that Mavel's Tom Breevort said it best: "I thought it was -- and I mean this in a good way -- the most 'DC' comic that I'd read in a long while." From there, a bunch of new Rebirth special issues and new #1's hit the stands, and I've read pretty much all of them. I picked up the usual suspects with the Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman titles, but I also revisited Green Lanterns and gave Aquaman, Green Arrow, and Titans a shot.

And I can tell you, there isn't a weak link in the bunch. I'm obviously going to have to stop dropping titles simply because I won't be able to afford everything, but I think that it's just going to come down to sticking with my favorite characters.

Anyway, here are some highlights:

Batman #1 - I don't think that I've read anything by Tom King before, but holy crap that's the way that you start a first issue. I don't want to give away too much, but it's really one long and well-constructed action sequence. However, there's a real emotional heft to it, and the last page has me dying to find out what happens next.

Green Arrow - I don't know if I'm going to be able to stick with this one, but I like the interaction between him and Black Canary. One of my oldest comics is a Green Lantern/Green Arrow reprint, so I always associate her with Ollie. I haven't been following either one of them in the New 52, so I didn't even realize that their history had been taken away. I imagine that longtime fans will be really happy with this.

Mick Gray, inker on Superman to the left, me babbling on at the right.
Courtesy of Flying Colors Comics.
Superman - Geez, but I can't think of a time when I've been this excited to pick up every Superman related title. Maybe it was back when Kurt Busiek was on Superman and Geoff Johns was on Action Comics? Anyway, I'm not sure how much this one will appeal to people who are totally new to comics, but I can't be the only veteran fan who's intrigued about what's happening here. In a nutshell, Superman is dead. But Superman, from the pre-New 52 continuity is very much alive, and he's ready to be the Man of Steel for the universe he now inhabits. He has some problems though as Lex Luthor had ideas about doing the same thing. Oh, and this Superman is married. And he's got a kid who doesn't know his own strength.

And Gene Yang has a book with a Chinese Superman? I'm down for that one as well.

The Flash - I'm doubly excited about this one since Joshua Williamson is writing it. He's currently writing two of my favorite Image books, Birthright and Nailbiter. Hopefully he'll be given the freedom to really bring his best to the Scarlet Speedster, as he's great at writing about personal relationships.

Wonder Woman - I lost interest in her adventures shortly after the conclusion of Brian Azarello's run, but this one has me back on board. This one really exemplifies what Rebirth is all about, as her origin underwent a heavy revision in the New 52. The Rebirth one-shot didn't do much other than set up a story to come, but it looks like the theme is "Who is Wonder Woman?" which has a lot of potential considering the heavy symbolism that is inherent with the character.

Green Lantern - I am a huge fan of what Geoff Johns did with Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern mythology. I kinda lost interest in the title when there was that whole New Gods business, and I really just didn't think that Billy Tan was a good fit for the title. I like the setup for the new Green Lanterns series, as it focuses on the two newest recruits for Sector 2814: Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz. The setup is a pretty good one, as the two of them have to share a lantern battery, and the Justice League will have to do their training since the Green Lantern Corps is missing in action. I don't know what they have in store for Hal Jordan in his book, but I'll at least check it out.

The Green Lantern concept already had a rich history and mythology to it, and that only became even more true under Geoff Johns. Hopefully this will continue the tradition.

No doubt I will have more to say as this reboot plays itself out. In the meantime, I'm excited and a bit daunted as to how much good stuff there is to read.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Hopes for Episode VIII

I've had the idea for this particular blog entry swimming around in my head for several months now, but after watching The Force Awakens yet again last night, I thought it was time that I finally sat down and wrote it. Another bit of motivation is that the movie is coming out next year, and no doubt some actual plot points are going to start being revealed soon.

Just to make one thing clear, I'm among the fans who loved Episode VII. I could nitpick at some things, but I'm really not interested in doing that. I also didn't have a problem with the fact that the movie's plot echoed the original as much as it did, as I thought that the characters and their personalities were all so very different from what we've seen before that it didn't matter seeing them go through the same motions that the original characters did.

I'm obviously looking forward to Episode VIII, and here are some of my hopes for what we can see next, some of them bordering on concerns.

1. Let's go in a new direction - Again, I have no problem with the plot echoes from The Force Awakens. But I want to see this take the audience into some unexpected places. I think it's safe to say that it will be darker, just as The Empire Strikes Back was to its predecessor. There will probably also be some revelations involving family relationships. With that said, we can definitely go somewhere new with this considering we have entire galaxy to play in. I have a feeling that the masterminds behind the saga have the same idea in mind.

2. Throw Rey for a loop - I have a feeling that we'll see this happen anyway, but one of the complaints about Rey in the previous movie was that she was a bit of a "Mary Sue" and was pretty much good at anything. Perhaps they were overcompensating now that there was a female protagonist? Maybe, but I don't think so. If we look at the previous two protagonists, Anakin and Luke, they both had it relatively easy compared to Rey. Sure, Anakin was a slave, but he was raised by his mother, and his slavemaster, Watto, was about as benevolent as one could possibly be. Luke had foster parents. Rey? She was an orphan, and it seems like she had basically been on her own on a junkyard, desert world ever since she was a little girl. She's had to fend entirely for herself, and it was not so strange that she would already have some grasp on the Force once it became "awakened".

Still, she did manage to take on each challenge quite well, and much of the fun was how surprised everybody was by her. Who the hell was this girl who could do so much and was channeling the Force like a boss? (Anybody else get the feeling that Han knew who she was? He kept giving knowing looks, and the camera cut away right after Maz Kanata asked him, "Who is this girl?")

With the next film, the bad guys need to be ready for her. And she just needs to barely escape with her life, perhaps with the help of her friend, Finn.

3. More new stuff to look at - Say what you will about the prequels, but they gave us a whole lot of new stuff to look at as far as different planets and spaceships were concerned. Yeah, we have different planets with the current trilogy so far, but is Jakku really all that different from Tatooine? Maybe they're running out of ideas, but I have to imagine that there are some things that nobody's done yet. Maybe we can even revisit one of those planets that we barely caught a glimpse of during Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith.

And while it's not a big deal, why the heck are they still flying X-Wing fighters and TIE fighters? Sure, they're a little bit different, but I would have to imagine that some new spaceship designs have come along in thirty years time.

4. Who is Snoke? I sure hope that they figured this out when they first wrote him into the script. If he's just some run of the mill dark Jedi, that would be pretty lame. If he's a Sith, he violates the Rule of Two. There has to be something behind him, and I really think that his origin needs to be backdated at least before the original trilogy, if not the prequels.

5. Lightsaber battles - The best lightsaber battle,visually, was the one in The Phantom Menace. Sure, it didn't have as much at stake as the one in Empire, so ultimately it's not quite as engaging, but it was finally a taste of the Jedi when they were in their prime. Obviously, Rey and Kylo Ren wouldn't be on the same level, but I think that they need to start approaching it in the next one. Personally, I would like to see a full restoration of the Jedi order, minus their dogmatic approach, by the time we get to Episode IX.

6. Kylo Ren is finishing what Vader started - This is just pure speculation. What, exactly, did Vader "start"? Is Ren referring to Vader's desire to "bring order to the galaxy"? Or could he be talking about how Vader tossed a Sith Lord down a pit, and with the rise of Snoke, somebody needs to finish wiping the evil force practitioners out of the galaxy? Then why join Snoke in the first place? Perhaps it's to get closer to him. Maybe only a true master of both the light and the dark can defeat the ultimate evil. I don't know, but I wonder if there is more to his plan than what we've been told so far.

7. Lando. Lando system? Lando's not a system, he's a man. And we need to find out what he's been up to. I'd like to think that he's living comfortably and having a nice retirement.

8. Lobot - Whatever happened to him? C'mon!