Comic Review: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – Century 1969

Writer: Alan Moore ~ Artist: Kevin O’Neill ~ Colours: Ben Dimagmaliw ~ Publisher: Top Shelf/Knockabout ~ Year: 2011

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century 1969 Cover Art Alan Moore Kevin O'Neill[xrr rating=3.5/5]

Reviewer: Saxon Bullock (aka @saxonb)

The Low-Down: The long-awaited latest volume of Comics Mastermind Alan Moore’s exploration of pulp fiction continues the eccentric course begun with the first instalment of the Century trilogy back in 2009. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – Century 1969 is a trippy, explict and disturbing trip through the dark side of the Sixties that’s full of amazing moments, even if it never quite reaches the heights of previous volumes.

What’s it About?: Eleven years after recovering the Black Dossier, the remaining members of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – the immortal trio Wilhemina Murray, Allan Quartermain and Orlando – return to the now Swinging London of 1969. There’s evidence that the satanic cult they tracked in 1910 is once again active, and dark forces are linking the worlds of hedonistic pop stars and criminal gangsters. But as one particular rock star aims for a spectacular live performance in Hyde Park, our immortal heroes find themselves in darker danger than they suspected…

The Story: Patience. That’s the main ingredient for being a fan of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a series that’s been published on an increasingly irregular schedule for the last eleven years (a fact that hasn’t been helped by author Alan Moore’s regular run-ins with major comics publishers, resulting in the series being moved from DC imprint Wildstorm to indie publishers Top Shelf and Knockabout). Even with the current trilogy of volumes, what was originally scheduled to be published from 2008-2009 might finally be finished in 2012 if we’re incredibly lucky (although 2013 is probably a safer estimate), but with the infamously outspoken Moore finally stepping away from all mainstream comics work, the LOEG is a project that looks to always follow its own bizarre pace. Moore and O’Neill are going to go at the speed they’re comfortable with, no matter how frustrating it might be.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century 1969 Panel Art Alan Moore Kevin O'NeillIt probably helps that the LOEG saga has, since the climax of the HG Wells-influenced Volume 2, been gradually stepping away from its Victorian pulp origins, embracing the ludicrous ambition of Volume 2’s head-spinning ‘New Traveller’s Almanac’ text portions, which mapped out an entire world and history based entirely on myth, legend and fiction of all shapes and sizes. Since 2007’s The Black Dossier, the League’s story has been a much stranger one – there’s still the sense of subversive adventure and the overturning of pulp archetypes, but the quest to push into ever weirder and wilder worlds of fiction has given the book a much riskier feel. It’s part romp, part twisted satire, part intellectual treasure-hunt, part spot-the-reference (with every single named character (and plenty of the background extras in certain panels) being a reference to another work of fiction), and since the start of the Century trilogy, things have only got weirder, wilder and more obscure.

This brings us to Century 1969, a volume that gives us the most modern version of the League world yet, crashing us into a brightly coloured and vividly trippy version of Sixties London that melds fiction, music and history into a pretty damn heady brew. While Century 1910 felt closer in tone to Moore’s Martian-centric second volume, this is much closer to The Black Dossier in both style and execution, with Moore taking on a whole series of Sixties-related characters, as well as having to do a lot of careful tiptoeing around certain names in order to avoid major copyright trouble. Featuring a cast of gangsters and drugged-out pop stars, there’s no surprise that there’s a hefty dose of controversial 1970 cult movie Performance and 1971 gangster classic Get Carter in the mix, with Moore’s story build a genuinely unsettling atmosphere as it builds to its mind-bending Hyde Park climax.

There’s all the wit, intelligence and playfulness that you’d expect, along with a predictably bleak and downbeat ending that sets things up for the trilogy’s final volume in a memorable way – and Moore also builds on the seeds laid down in Century 1910, with Mina’s perception of her own immortality once again changing, eventually pushing her in some surprising directions. Underneath the colourful gags, the savage violence and the head-spinning references, there’s a very pointed examination of the Sixties going on here, as well as a look at the way fiction evolves with the times (embodied in Mina’s determinedly ‘groovy’ behaviour). Along with this, there’s a sense of cynical despair at the passage of time and the development of fiction that’s hard not to read as partly thanks to Moore’s disillusionment with most mainstream entertainment (and especially comics and movies).

Thanks to this, Century 1969 may be never less than a fascinating read, but it’s not always a fun one either. A lot of this is simply the level of references – it helps to know a lot about Sixties pop culture (I was especially pleased to see the title character from Adam Adamant Lives! making an appearence), but even then there’s a tremendous amount in Century 1969 that’s pitched at a level you’re never going to appreciate without doing research (or consulting Jess Nevins’ excellent online footnotes, which helped me out with a number of references I’d never have spotted without help). There are points where the story feels in danger of disappearing into the realms of literary/pop culture game, with the danger that it’s very easy for a reader to feel excluded from the moments where they don’t get the joke. Moore doesn’t feel as interested in carrying the reader along for the ride here as he did earlier in the LOEG saga, and there are certain sequences that simply end up perplexing and confusing rather than adventurous and satirical (especially the bizarre scene involving a certain ‘Jack C’ and a moustachioed midget).

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century 1969 Panel Art Alan Moore Kevin O'NeillIt’s partly down to being the flipside of the increasingly offbeat identity of the League saga – no matter how much fun the original two volumes were with their energetic pulp adventure, Moore could easily have run that concept into the ground. Instead, in the exact opposite stance of most mainstream comics (at which Moore aims a couple of subtle barbs during Century 1969), he’s opened it out and changed it so that every single League story is different in style and approach. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is still one of the most distinctive, daring and demented cult comic experiences currently available, but Century 1969 has a few too many points where the joke is starting to wear thin, and the chase to keep up with the trail of references and in-jokes gets a little wearing here. Moore is still ploughing his own individualistic furrow, and should be applauded for that – it’s just a pity that he’s not always bringing his audience along for the ride…

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century 1969 Panel Art Alan Moore Kevin O'NeillThe Art: One area where the League is still as strong as ever, however, is in its visuals. The only artist to ever have his entire artistic style declared ‘objectionable’ by the Comics Code Authority (back in 1986), Kevin O’Neill has a massively distinctive and individual look to his work that’s only gotten crazier over the years. Angular and detailed, his art is closer to the grotesque of old-school English illustrators like Hogarth than traditional superhero comics, and the League has suited him down to the ground from day one, matching Moore’s creativity and imagination note for note. Century 1969 sees him shifting gears again, and from the dour atmospherics of the gangland sequences to the hilariously extreme and imaginative acid trip, it’s breathtaking work that’s strongly backed up with Ben Dimagmaliw’s eye-popping colours. An extra note of applause has to go to Todd Klein, one of the best letterers in the business, who goes to even more imaginative extremes, making this a visually stunning and arresting experience.

The Verdict: Any new readers shouldn’t even consider starting here – The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – Century 1969 is a distinctive and often extreme tale that won’t be for everyone, and doesn’t quite live up to previous volumes in the series. However, if the mix of pulp adventure, off-beat satire and literary game-play is up your street, then this volume will still give you plenty to chew on – just don’t hold your breath for volume 3, as we may be in for a long wait…

[amtap book:isbn=0861661621]

Movie Trailer: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

The trailer deluge just keeps on coming, and here we have the first decent look at The Amazing Spider-Man, an upcoming superhero reboot that certainly qualifies as risky. In certain respects, I’m glad they’re rebooting the Spider-Man films – while I enjoyed them, the Raimi films never completely gelled with me, while the third film was an overcrowded and near-incoherent mess, and losing Tobey Maguire and (particularly) Kirsten Dunst didn’t strike me as problems. So, when the original plan for Spider-Man 4 collapsed (and considering that Raimi allegedly wanted John Malkovich as the Vulture, possibly this is a good thing) and Sony went for a full reboot, I was intrigued – especially when they suggested it was going to be much closer to the Ultimate Spider-Man incarnation of the mythos, keeping Peter Parker as a teenage highschooler. (For those not in the know, the ‘Ultimate’ Marvel universe was invented as a way to retell classic Marvel stories in a more contemporary way, although it’s evolved and now stands more as an ‘anything can happen’ alternate to the normal Marvel universe.)

When the director was announced – Marc Webb, a music video director who’s best known for helming offbeat romantic comedy drama 500 Days of Summer – I remained intrigued, especially since he wasn’t a natural choice for a big film, and his hiring definitely suggested they wanted a more modern, relationship-based take on the material. When the casting was announced I was intrigued (and also slightly perplexed when Emma Stone, who would have been absolutely perfect as redheaded Spider-Man girlfriend Mary Jane Watson, instead got cast as a different Spider-Man girlfriend, Gwen Stacey), and I knew the selection of Andrew Garfield in the lead role was definitely a good move even before I saw him in The Social Network. The one thing I was hoping, however, was that we wouldn’t get a full origin again – my fingers were crossed that maybe saner heads would prevail, and we’d get something along the lines of Marvel’s recent take on The Incredible Hulk – giving us the character’s origin in the opening credits, and then straight on with the story.

However, that’s exactly what we’re getting in The Amazing Spider-Man, as this trailer confirms, and while this is a nicely shot (and mostly relationship-heavy) teaser, which certainly looks much more modern and without the slight level of retro-cheese that Raimi added (which was, admittedly, trying to capture some of the tone of the original Stan Lee comics, if not always succesfully), it’s the origin. Again. Only a decade after we first got the origin. There’s a different villain (the less attention-grabbing Lizard aka Curt Conners, played here by Rhys Ifans), but a lot of this is going to play the same to the extent that it’s in danger of feeling more like a remake than a reboot. After all, Spider-Man doesn’t have the same wild variations in tone throughout his history that Batman did, meaning it isn’t as easy to do a stylistic shift like what happened between Batman and Robin and Batman Begins. That was a reboot that justified its existence thoroughly (whatever you thought of the resulting film), whereas this reboot is happening simply because (a) it’s Spidey!! In 3-D!!! and (b) Maguire and Raimi became too pricey (especially considering the mess of the third movie), and Sony need to keep making Spider-Man movies or the rights will switch back to Marvel Studios. Yes, I’m sure that the CG-heavy Spidey POV shot will look great in 3-D, and that Garfield will make an excellent Spider-Man, even if it’s going to be hard dismissing memories of him in The Social Network while watching. I’m also sure that Emma Stone will be much more engaging and less slappable than Dunst was as the female lead (although can anyone explain why, despite blonde being her natural hair colour, she looks so much better (and sexier) as a redhead?). Leaving aside the context, this is a pretty good teaser (and certainly more immediately exciting than the rather low-key, threadbare Dark Knight Rises trailer), and I’ll certainly be there to watch the film in 2012… but until then, they’re going to need to pull something fairly spectacular in order to convince me The Amazing Spider-Man has a better reason to exist than ‘Money, Money, Money’…

Movie Trailer: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises Teaser Poster Christopher Nolan 2012 Batman Christian Bale

Despite the collosal trailer deluge of the last week, there was one I was looking forward to more than any others – the first proper glimpse of Christopher Nolan’s upcoming third Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises. Well, it’s finally online at the film’s Facebook page (an official workable embed on this page will, hopefully, be coming soon…), and what are my thoughts? Well… I have to admit that it’s surprisingly low key, and I’m not sure if the accidental echoes of the first trailer for Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace are a particularly good idea (mainly in the use of captions). However, it’s worth remembering that the first teaser for The Dark Knight was pretty damn low key as well – dialogue from Michael Caine over a disintegrating bat-symbol, followed by a bit of Heath Ledger’s laughter – and this does its job, giving us plenty of old clips, and the very smallest glimpse at where the story of The Dark Knight Rises may be going, with a hospitalised Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) pleading for Batman’s return (which, I’m assuming from this scene, means that he’s figured out Bruce Wayne is Batman). Plus, a very quick look at Tom Hardy as Bane in full dramatic stomp mode. And that’s our lot. It’s possibly the least intriguing trailer for a Christopher Nolan film that I’ve seen for a very long time, but it’s also the most traditional – and that’s possibly because with so much information flying around (even for someone who’s doing his best to avoid spoilers), it feels like the trailer isn’t really telling me that much I didn’t already know. Whatever happens, though, I’m thoroughly intrigued, and the one-year countdown to the July 2012 release of The Dark Knight Rises starts now…

Comic Review: Locke and Key – Keys to the Kingdom

Writer: Joe Hill ~ Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez ~ Colours: Jay Fotos ~
Publisher: IDW ~ Year: 2011

Locke and Key Volume 4 Keys to the Kingdom Joe Hill Gabriel Rodriguez IDW Comics[xrr rating=5/5]

The Low-Down: The fourth collection of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s dark fantasy is the best yet – a pitch-perfect example of horror storytelling combined with inventive concepts, brilliant characterisation and yet more jaw-dropping artwork.

What’s it About?: Their father was murdered, and the Locke children have returned with their mother to the old family home of Keyhouse. There, they’ve discovered a whole collection of magical keys with bizarre and unearthly powers – and they’ve also come under threat from the creature that used to be trapped in the Keyhouse well. Unfortunately, they don’t know that the creature is now posing as their school friend Zack Wells, who’s starting to lose patience in his quest to find the mysterious Omega Key…

The Story: Ah, expectations can be a killer. Tell a longtime comics fan that his favourite series’ next six-issue outing will consist of four one-part stories and a two-parter, and disappointment will almost immediately set in. Modern-day mainstream comics (especially superhero stories) often seem structured more as six monthly chunks of the final graphic novel than instalments in their own right, and often don’t even work on their own terms as a single instalment. Single issue stories – they’re supposed to be the exception, not the rule. Aren’t they?

However, Locke and Key is a different matter. Ever since volume 2, Head Games, the series has placed just as much emphasis on the character-centric single issue stories as on the bigger, pacier tales (like the three-part Crown of Shadows adventure in volume 3), and while volume 4 does mainly consist of character-driven single done-in-one stories, this is a long way from being filler – in fact, it’s the most inventive and adventurous collection of Locke and Key to date, advancing the story in a number of critical ways, giving us a whole selection of new keys, all while building up to a shocking climax and a mother of a cliffhanger.

Locke and Key Volume 4 Keys to the Kingdom Joe Hill Gabriel Rodriguez IDW Comics Issue 3 Cover 'February'A tremendously skilled writer, Hill continues to serve up outstanding characterisation, adding nuances to character with carefully chosen details, and paying off emotional plotlines with massively affecting consequences. Of course, to anyone who’s read his fiction this is no surprise (Hill’s second novel, Horns, remains the only novel I’ve ever given up on part-way through simply because I knew it was going to upset me too much), but one of the most impressive things about Locke and Key is that, unlike some novelists who end up writing comics (and who often end up producing fine work), Hill really does understand how comics work as a medium, and that they let you do things you simply can’t do anywhere else.

There are points in Keys to the Kingdom where Hill cuts loose with a more daring and experimental approach (from the brilliantly compressed storytelling of ‘February’ to the wonderful and utterly unexpected Calvin and Hobbes homage in ‘Sparrow’), all the while understanding when to let the visuals tell the story. Locke and Key is a comic with a really distinctive identity, and the tonal shifts between off-beat dark children’s fantasy and outright horror just get more and more effective and disturbing. Indeed, it’s incredible exactly how much plot Hill manages to cram into these six issues, while he also gradually cranks the tension up to almost unbearable levels and shows no compunction in going for genuinely horrific violence when it’s required.

Hill’s already declared that Locke and Key will be ending in twelve issues, and the first issue of the fifth miniseries ‘Clockworks’ will be appearing in comic book stores soon – but while the story may be heading towards it’s end, it’s obvious there are plenty of shocks and surprises to come. The long-awaited TV adaptation may have failed to get beyond its unaired (and highly acclaimed) pilot episode, but Locke and Key remains one of the most well-crafted and compulsively readable comic books currently being released.

Locke and Key Volume 4 Keys to the Kingdom Joe Hill Gabriel Rodriguez IDW Comics Issue 2 Incentive Cover 'White'The Art: He started strong, and has been getting better and better through every series, but Keys to the Kingdom sees Gabriel Rodriguez go even further than before. His controlled, cartoony yet distinctive style is still as sharp as ever, as is his design work (virtually every one of the Keyhouse keys is a genuine work of art), but here he also takes on some serious challenges, whether it’s the brilliant war comic homages in chapter four, or the daring and wonderful Bill Watterson homage in chapter 1. Each one of these he pulls off with a major amount of style, while also matching Hill’s script in terms of portraying the character’s emotions (especially in the wonderful third chapter). Combined with Jay Fotos’ gorgeously creative and subtle colour work, and Locke and Key remains a seriously good-looking bit of comic art.

The Verdict: If you like dark fantasy or horror, and you’re not reading Locke and Key, get a move on and catch up with the story so far – you won’t be disappointed. One of the best comic series currently being published is going from strength to strength, and looks to be powering its way towards one hell of an ending.

[amtap book:isbn=1600108865]

Movie Review: Green Lantern (2011)

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Tim Robbins ~ Writers: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg ~ Director: Martin Campbell 

Green Lantern Movie Poster 2011 Ryan Reynolds[xrr rating=2/5]

The Low-Down: DC’s latest attempt at a superhero blockbuster, Green Lantern should have been a giddy mix of colourful action and space adventure. Trouble is, nobody seems to have told that to the filmmakers – what we end up with is a deeply mediocre, flatly executed comic-book romp with only a few brief flickers of the lurid saga it should have been.

What’s it About?: Hotshot test-pilot pilot Hal Jordan may be talented, but he’s also an irresponsible risk-taker who ends up derailing a potential big contract for his employers, Ferris Air. But, just as his life seems to be going wrong, an encounter with a dying alien results in him being inducted into the Green Lantern Corps, a group of interstellar policemen who battle against unimaginable forces of evil – one of which is now on its way to Earth…

The Story: Oh dear. Poor DC can’t seem to get a break outside the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman movies. They’ve been stuck way behind Marvel for years, and even now that Warners is finally getting their act together with some serious franchise-starting action… it’s still not quite happening. They’ve bet a fair old whack of money on Green Lantern (with an estimated price tag of around $200 million, plus the marketing costs on top of that), and I’m sure they can’t be happy to have the first of 2011’s batch of superhero blockbusters that really does appear to have a “Kick Me” sign attached to its back. The $50 million opening weekend (plus a 69% drop-off in its second week) means it’s a long way from being the ideal franchise opener that DC and Warner Bros obviously wanted – and while it’d be lovely to report that this is all terribly unfair, and that Green Lantern is actually a fun adventure that’s catching a small superhero backlash almost purely by accident… I’d be lying through my teeth if I did.

It doesn’t quite deserve some of the vitriol that’s been thrown at it (and is certainly a long way from being as dreadful as the Fantastic Four movies), while there’s also the fact that not every superhero movie has to be The Dark Knight, meaning that there’s room in the multiplexes for a lighter, more colourful piece of superhero action. However, it’s hard to recall the last time I saw a movie quite so flat  – a blockbuster that simply seems to go through the motions, giving us a sketchy version of the Hero’s Journey and a handful of nicely executed effects shots without ever cohering together into a genuinely thrilling ride.

Green Lantern Ryan Reynolds Publicity Still 2011There’s a pervasive sense of ‘that’ll do’ to much of the picture, alongside the feeling that they’re not doing a fantastic job of getting the reported $200 million budget all up onscreen (with the film looking a little creaky outside the big CG setpieces). One of the original comic book’s strengths is the extensive mythology (which has been upgraded a lot in the last few years by main GL writer Geoff Johns), but the film doesn’t approach this with anything approaching the confidence of Thor. Instead, this is a film that’s desperate to be taken seriously but simply slaps chunks of the mythology onscreen in the hope that it’ll wow us, sandwiching them together with lots of dreary expository dialogue (“I believe you have the power to overcome fear!”). There’s precious little sense of us learning about the universe with Hal Jordan or getting more involved with his character that way – instead, the piecemeal screenplay is just a collection of things that happen, leading up to Hal discovering his inner awesomeness (and, as a footnote, that it’s better to be nice than an arrogant asshat).

Green Lantern 2011 Oa Ryan Reynolds Movie WallpaperThere’s a whole heap of exciting stories to be told in the Green Lantern universe, but the film seems to be terrified to tell any of them for fear of busting the budget. It doesn’t help that by cranking up audience expectations of the footage depicting the Green Lantern Corps’ home planet of Oa (which has basically been the highlight of the publicity campaign, while the far more integral central relationship between Hal and ex-girlfriend Carol Ferris is barely featured in the trailers at all) the film ended up shooting itself in the foot. Yes, the Oa scenes do feature some spectacular moments and memorable characters (most notably the Geoffrey Rush-voiced Tomar-Re, who’s the highlight of the entire movie), and it is the point where the film does finally hit the right note of lurid SF action – but it’s all over within ten minutes, and the rest of the film feels like a let-down. After the colour and variety of the Green Lantern Corp’s home planet, the last thing we want is to be chucked back onto Earth for lots of scenes of Hal Jordan experiencing Olympian levels of angst and more lumpen villainy from the deeply unimpressive adversary Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), who comes over as more of a slightly annoying distraction than an intimidating threat in his own right (while the film’s ‘main’ villain – a floating CGI head with massive cloud tentacles – barely even registers as a convincing threat until virtually the end of the film).

Green Lantern Ryan Reynolds 2011In terms of balancing spectacle, it’s the same problem that the original Michael Bay Transformers movie faced – how to cope with the fact that the budget won’t stretch to setting the entire film on Oa (or with the fact that, thanks to the CGI approach to the costume, every single shot of Reynolds in costume is an effects shot) – and while Bay’s solution was hardly brilliant (filling the film with clumsy racial stereotypes and John Turturro overacting), Green Lantern’s earthbound scenes aren’t exactly much better, frequently feeling like a rather limp and gag-free version of Nineties CG-fest The Mask – or, in one slightly unwise balcony-set scene, Disney’s Aladdin (where it wouldn’t have surprised me if the costumed Hal had immediately taken Carol Ferris for a flight and a rousing chorus of ‘A Whole New World’). The Oa scenes simply crank up the spectacle to a level the rest of the film (bar the climax) can’t hope to match, and it’s hard not to think that maybe (especially in the wake of Avatar, which took audiences to an alien planet for the whole film) leaving Oa for a sequel might have been a wiser move.

Naturally, this won’t stand – Hal has to go to Oa because ‘that’s how it happened in the comics’ – and while fidelity to the source material is usually used as a benchmark of quality for comic book adaptations, Green Lantern is another example to stand alongside Watchmen that sometimes throwing the comic onscreen note-for-note isn’t the best idea. While the film draws massively from the recent run overseen by comics writer Geoff Johns, Green Lantern itself has been around in one form or another since 1940 (with the Hal Jordan iteration of the mythos debuting in 1959), meaning that over the years it’s ended up as a rather odd mish-mash of different concepts from different decades, many of which sit rather weirdly together when thrown into live-action. Most notably, there’s the GL costume’s slightly ludicrous domino mask, which only really works in the scene where the film deliberately mocks it, along with the deeply silly Green Lantern Corps’ poetic oath (Would any modern screenwriter in their right mind attempt to pitch “Yeah! He’s a cop from space… and he also does poetry!”?), and the fact that one of the main characters (who also sports a not-in-any-way-villainous forties moustache and pointy eyebrows) is given the “Honest, there’s no chance of me turning evil” name of Sinestro.

Green Lantern Ryan Reynolds 2011The end result is an occasionally head-scratching pot-pourri of influences, and the film’s solution to this potential problem is to simply throw it all  onscreen and hope for the best. While it captures the general pacing and structure of a Geoff Johns comic well (even down to the exposition-heavy opening), all it proves is that the kind of pacing and storytelling that works in superhero comics often falls flat on the big screen. The film’s story simply consists of important character moments without any of the connective tissue that actually makes it feel like a movie. Things seem to just happen, characters are moved around with little to no logic (especially when Hal heroically bursts into a room at one point for absolutely no reason), plot arcs are introduced and then abandoned (such as Hal’s family, who are given a fairly major introduction in the first fifteen minutes and then never seen again), while even the mid-credits Marvel-style ‘teaser’ scene, obviously inserted to whet the appetite for a potential sequel, instead blows the film’s most interesting character arc out of the water and simply seems to happen because, well, that’s what happened in the comics.

Maybe with a different director, the film could have been sharper – after all, Martin Campbell is a really weird choice for a CGI-fest, with his background being in executing practical action on a grand scale in films like Goldeneye, The Mask of Zorro and Casino Royale. While he does pull off a couple of good-looking sequences, he simply can’t bring the film to life and fails to give it the sense of wonder and involvement it needs. But then, he’s saddled with a weak screenplay full of clunky and uninspired dialogue that any filmmaker probably would have struggled with. The cast largely do their best – after being apparently considered for every single superhero role going, Ryan Reynolds gives a confident lead performance, although he’s much better at the cocky arrogance than the mopey soul-searching, and Peter Sarsgaard makes a serious attempt to do something kooky with his villainous role, even though even he can’t make a low-rent telepath with gigantism into a convincing adversary.

There’s also excellent work from Mark Strong as Sinestro, although Blake Lively is rather flat and wooden as Carol Ferris, while both Angela Bassett and Tim Robbins are reduced to looking slightly embarrassed in extended cameos. Nobody’s exactly dreadful – Green Lantern isn’t interesting enough for that; it aims squarely in the middle of the road, and what we get is a perfunctory superhero origin, with all the character moments marked in triplicate for those not paying attention. There’s the potential for a good film here, but so much is lazily underdeveloped (like the conflict between Hal and Hector Hammond over Carol Ferris, which barely gets mentioned for half the movie before suddenly becoming a vital plot point) that once again, DC has been left in the dust by Marvel.

Ultimately, a live-action Green Lantern seems like a flawed prospect from the get-go – it’s a concept that would play much better in animation (reducing some of the budget problems, and enabling the ‘unlimited imagination’ of the ring constructs to really cut loose), and simply feels constrained by the limits of how much this kind of photo-real CG animation costs. An Incredibles-style CG cartoon could, in theory, be a brilliant idea, and the mix of tones in the GL mythos would play much better if it was slightly stylised, but of course, live-action is what the market demands, and that’s what it gets. Of course, a continuation of the franchise isn’t impossible, and it seems like Green Lantern will eventually turn a profit – but on the current form, it’ll have to do a hell of a lot better on its second movie if it isn’t simply going to be written off as yet another cinematic superhero misfire.

The Verdict: A superhero blockbuster that will leave fans of the comic delighted and everyone else wondering what the hell just happened, Green Lantern is not the death knell of superhero movies, or an absolute celluloid disaster. It’s just a misconceived and poorly executed romp that falls a long way short of equalling any of the decent and entertaining superhero flicks in the last ten years.

[amtap book:isbn=0789322617]

[amtap amazon:asin=B004XK4OL4]

Comics Review: Batwoman – Elegy

Writer: Greg Rucka ~ Art: J.H. Williams ~ Colours: Dave Stewart
Publisher: DC Comics ~ Year: 2010

Batwoman Elegy Trade Paperback Cover Art Greg Rucka J H Williams III Kathy Kane[xrr rating=5/5]

The Low-Down: One of the most well-crafted and gorgeous superhero comics produced in years, this collection acts as an excellent introduction to its intriguing central character, while also showcasing some truly astonishing artwork.

The Backstory: Socialite-turned-vigilante Katherine Kane is the latest costumed crimefighter to stalk the streets of Gotham City, taking her inspiration from the Dark Knight and battling injustice under the identity of Batwoman.

What’s it About?: Six months after nearly losing her life at the hands of the mysterious cult known as the Religion of Crime, Katherine is back on the streets and eager to hunt down the Religion’s new leader. But when she encounters this leader – a psychotic Lewis Carrol-obsessed young woman named Alice – Katherine is soon uncovering secrets she’ll wish were left unearthed…

The Story: “Lesbian Batwoman!” That was the main news story when this newly remixed and revamped version of an old-school Batman character was announced back in 2006. Yes, DC were introducing an openly Lesbian superhero into their shared universe, but when Katherine Kane made her first appearance in the year-long miniseries 52, not everyone was impressed. Touches like the rather impractical high-heel boots on the costume didn’t exactly help, and while there was some good writing, the general impression was that DC had ended up with a showy ‘Lipstick Lesbian’ character and not much else.

As a result, this first proper starring role for the character (in the pages of Detective Comics, where Batman first appeared back in May 1939) had its work cut out for it to prove Kathy Kane could work as a genuine protagonist. Getting a successful and engaging bit of superhero action would have been enough – but instead, the two resulting stories collected here (‘Elegy’ and ‘Go’) showcased razor-sharp storytelling combined with mind-blowing artistry.

Batwoman (Double-page Spread) JH Williams IIIWritten by Greg Rucka, the novelist and comics writer behind series like the police-centric Batman title Gotham Central, this is an incredibly strong piece of superhero writing that gets to the heart of an intriguing and well-crafted character. It was certainly easy to wonder if we really needed another Bat-costumed vigilante, but Rucka gives Katherine’s journey through the story a whole series of levels, making her a compelling and interesting character while not turning her sexuality into a cheap bit of titilation. Thanks to her backstory, it’s key to who she is (we find out in ‘Go’ that she was originally training to be a marine, but was drummed out of the service thanks to the ‘Dont Ask, Don’t Tell’ rules that forbid gays from serving in the US Armed forces), and Rucka manages plenty of nicely played character twists, while building a fascinating relationship between Katherine and her father.

Sadly, this isn’t completely self-contained. As with so many superhero stories, there’s past history this links in with (in this case, the lengthy story of ’52’), meaning certain plot twists come as a severe culture shock (especially when a group of shape-changers seem to just turn up out of nowhere). However, unlike many superhero comics that flirt with being adult but only really manage adolescent violence and melodrama, this is a superhero action adventure that feels genuinely grown-up, and will leave you hungry for more – and, after many delays, we’ll finally be getting more in the ongoing Batwoman series finally starts in September 2011 (although sadly without the writing talents of Rucka).

Batwoman - JH Williams IIIThe Art: Some comics look good. Some comics look beautiful. And then, there are the comics that blast your head off with exactly how lush, artful and downright gorgeous they look. J.H. Williams III has been building a reputation over the last decade for being one of the most impressive and experimental artists in the business (especially with his work on Alan Moore’s Promethea and the opening/closing chapters of Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers of Victory), and he really pushes the boat out here, delivering some deeply eyeball-frazzling visuals.

There’s barely a page in the whole collection that isn’t breathtaking, from the lush painted style and angular panel structures of the Batwoman-in-costume sequences to the cleaner lines of Kathy Kane’s everyday life. Double-page spreads explode in colour, fight sequences are rendered as lightning-bolt-shaped panels raining down around the central character, and the whole thing is simply a jaw-dropping showcase of the kind of places comics can go when a writer and an artist are prepared to push into new territory. Of course, there’ll be some who’ll look at this sniffily and say “It’s all a bit flashy and hard to read”, but this is the kind of storytelling that only comics can do (and which still works best on the printed page), making the design and structure of the page an integral part of the story. Far more than just eye-candy, Batwoman: Elegy sets a new standard for art and storytelling craft in mainstream comics – and if only there were a few more mainstream titles out there even capable of trying to keep up…

The Verdict: An expertly crafted and characterful introduction to a new superhero gets pushed into must-read territory by some gob-smacking artwork. One of the best mainstream superhero comic books published in a long time – buy it, and give your eyes a feast.

[amtap book:isbn=0857684299]

Movie Trailer: Captain America – The First Avenger (2011)

Well, those Team America comparisons certainly aren’t going anywhere. The latest Captain America – The First Avenger trailer has hit, and it still looks like (a) Marvel have done a pretty good job of making a pulpy action blockbuster, and (b) Chris Evans was absolutely the right man for the Captain America role. It’s been a relatively crowded superhero summer so far, and while Thor and X-Men: First Class have done good business, Green Lantern has certainly not been a critical success (for reasons I’ll go into once I do my upcoming review) while not quite performing to the level DC and Warners would have liked. However, I have a sneaky feeling that superhero fatigue hasn’t set in yet, and while this particular Captain America trailer features way too many cock-rock guitar chords for my liking, it’s also got enough engaging banter, action and Hugo Weaving being evil for me to have my fingers crossed. Plus, the fact that the 1940s Brooklyn scenes were filmed on location (with plenty of set dressing) in Manchester about a minute’s walk from my local comic shop is just the icing on the cake…

Comic News: Bats and Oracles – More News and Thoughts on the DC Relaunch

Batman Detective Comics Issue 1 Cover Art Tony Daniel DC Reboot The Joker

The major news of the DC Comics September relaunch from last week has been bouncing around the comic-obsessed areas of the internet like wildfire, and we’ve now got a much clearer idea of what we’re dealing with. A dizzying amount of information has been released – creative teams have been announced for plenty of titles, we now know what a fair number of the 52 issue 1s that are hitting in September will be (from various Green Lantern, Batman and Superman titles to Wonder Woman (who’s staying in her most recent costume change), Animal Man, The Demon, The Fury of Firestorm, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Swamp Thing, Justice League Dark, and many, many more – a full list of the currently confirmed titles is up at BleedingCool.). Certainly, DC are going out of their way to make this an accessible jumping-on point for new readers, but contrary to early reports, they’re not going for quite the complete ground-up reboot we thought…

Wonder Woman Issue 1 Cover DC RebootThe fact that this is all happening after the alternate timeline shenanigans of Flashpoint meant it would have been possible to basically press a big button and reboot the whole DC superhero mythology, but what DC are aiming for does seem to be a mix of major changes and careful tweaking. After all, while they’re keen to get new people reading comics, they don’t want to completely annoy the long-time readers by telling them all those comics they’ve been following don’t count any more. Well… strictly speaking, superhero comics do this kind of thing all the time (It’s the nature of continuity reboots in long-running titles), but this would have been doing that kind of thing to the entire line of DC comics, an extreme move in anyone’s book.

Thankfully, it seems like DC are being sensible and saying in certain cases that if it ain’t broke, there’s no point in fixing it. Some characters do seem to be getting ground-up reboots in the DC Relaunch (like minor Justice League player and Brightest Day cast-member Firestorm, whose upcoming new comic definitely doesn’t sound like it follows current Firestorm continuity), and it looks like Superman is getting some major changes – one of which is strongly rumoured to be that his long-running marriage to Lois Lane may be history (meaning he’s ended up in the same boat as Spiderman and Mary Jane Parker in recent Spiderman comics, although at least we’re talking parallel universes and not incredibly unconvincing deals with the devil…), along with a worryingly revamped costume that brings back vague and scary memories of the fashion disaster that was the Nineties ‘Electric’ Superman

Batman Greg Capullo Art Cover DC Reboot Issue 1However, not every single bit of the DC Universe is being fiddled with – the Green Lantern franchise (which I’m not a huge fan of – I can understand the appeal of colourful space opera action, I just find multi-coloured spandex-clad space police with their own personal rhyming oaths a bit difficult to take seriously) isn’t being touched, simply rebooting its number and starting up a new story (with the aftermath of current event War of the Green Lanterns presumably being finally wrapped up in August). The only one I was really concerned about was Batman – or, more particularly, Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, which was absent from a number of the recent press releases (one of which announced the fact that ex-Robin Dick Grayson, who stepped into the role of Batman a couple of years back while Bruce Wayne was lost in time, would be returning to the role of Nightwing, while Bruce Wayne would be back as the only person in the Batman cowl).

Batman 683 Alex Ross Cover Grant MorrisonI’ve been enjoying the hell out of Morrison’s run on Batman – it’s had its fair share of ups and downs, but he’s done some seriously adventurous things with the character, and it’s the kind of wild storytelling that you can get away with in comics and which simply wouldn’t work elsewhere. (There have been moments where I liked to imagine Christopher Nolan going completely insane and saying “Oh, the third Batman film? We’ll be referencing Batman R.I.P., Final Crisis and The Return of Bruce Wayne, complete with the Batman of Zurr En Arrh, Bat-Mite and time travel.”) Of course, it’s had its fair share of detractors and critics, especially from trad-Batman fans who don’t hold with the comic being anything other than dark gritty action on the streets of Gotham (when there are multiple Batman titles, and most of them deliver exactly that) – and the one thing that Morrison’s run isn’t, especially now that it’s in its final phase in Batman Incorporated, is new reader friendly. Instead, it uses massive amounts of continuity in a really interesting way, finding a way of treating the entirety of Batman’s seventy-year history as the life of one man (most memorably in the brilliantly surreal post-R.I.P. two parter ‘The Butler Did It/What The Butler Saw’), while also utilising a large cast of characters and exploring different areas of the DC Universe (especially thanks to Bruce Wayne’s current globe-trotting adventures).

Not the kind of thing that’s easy to boil down into an accessible issue 1, of course, and while simply saying “Well, let’s cancel it and bring the Batman stories in line with the relaunch” would have been a dumb corporate idea, it would hardly be the first time storytelling in comics has been dictated by dumb corporate ideas. However, they’ve ultimately been sensible – Batman Incorporated is being split into two ‘seasons’, with the first concluding in August with issue 10. Then it goes on hiatus for a while (with Morrison working on a ‘yet to be announced’ project), and returns in early 2012 with season 2 of Batman Inc, which’ll be a 12 issue epic and will wrap up the whole Morrison run. And presumably mean I can start saving for the absurdly expensive omnibuses that DC will undoubtedly be doing of the run at some point in the future…

DC Reboot - Nightwing Issue 1 Cover Batman Dick GraysonThat’s got me relieved, and it’s nice to see it’s been handled well. Certain aspects are a bit disappointing – unlike some, I actually enjoyed the whole ‘two Batmen’ concept, and having Dick Grayson in the role opened up plenty of storytelling possibilities that hadn’t been there before (especially with his relationship with the fabulously grumpy Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne’s 10-year-old son and the new Robin), but of course superhero comics are all about the illusion of change, and it also makes sense for an accessible relaunch to get the comic back to a general perception of Batman that doesn’t have to start with the sentence “Well, you see, it was all because Batman got hit by Darkseid with the Omega Sanction back in Final Crisis and everyone thought he was dead…” I’d have been happy for those stories to continue for longer, but I’m impressed we got as many as we did. Not sure if ‘demoting’ Dick back to his role as Nightwing will create many interesting stories, but I guess we’ll have to see.

DC Reboot - Batgirl Barbara Gordon Issue 1 CoverThen, though, there’s the one decision I’m less than comfortable with – the fact that they’re bringing Barbara Gordon back as Batgirl. To non-comic readers, that’s probably not going to sound like a problem, after all Batgirl (the BG version) is pretty iconic after all these years thanks to her countless animated appearences, the Sixties show, and she even survived the terrible, terrible ignominy of being played by Alicia Silverstone in Batman and Robin. Trouble is, back in the mid-Eighties, in Alan Moore’s legendary Batman graphic novel The Killing Joke, Barbara was shot in the spine by the Joker, paralysing her from the waist down (an event which was, like the rest of The Killing Joke, supposed to be outside of continuity, but has since been adopted as part of the DCU history). Since then, for over twenty years, she’s been in a wheelchair, but has still played a significant role in the DC Universe as Oracle, the all-round JLA information source and master computer expert, as well as acting as the head of the Birds of Prey, a female group of superheroes.

Oracle Barbara Gordon DC Reboot - Ryan Sook ArtShe’s essentially ended up as a much stronger and a far more interesting character as a result of this – especially since she’s held her own in a very major way in a universe full of incredible dangers without having any superpowers. There aren’t exactly many disabled characters in superhero comics, and it’s hard to think of one that’s been as long-lasting or been presented as well as Oracle – a tough, intelligent woman who doesn’t let a crippling injury stop her from helping people in any way she can. Of course, there is the fact that in an anything-can-happen universe like the one presented by DC, where people rise from the dead and do the impossible every other week, it shouldn’t be beyond likelihood for Barbara’s injuries to be eventually healed, but DC have kept to presenting that reality for a long time, with the result that Barbara Gordon has now having spent longer as Oracle than she ever did as Batgirl (and has actually acted as ‘advisor’ to the two subsequent versions of Batgirl who’ve turned up in Batman continuity over the last decade-or-so – Cassandra Cain, and Stephanie Brown).

Come September, however, and that’s all over. In the post-Flashpoint DCU, Barbara Gordon will officially be back as Batgirl – I’m guessing that she may be one of the characters who’s being aged down slightly, as Barbara has been allowed to get a little older over the years (comic book ageing in superhero comics is always odd and rather elastic, but it does happen – in the same way that Dick Grayson has distinctly aged since his first appearence as Robin). I’m hoping that possibly they may keep aspects of the Oracle storyline as part of her background – that maybe in this rewritten version of history, the injury from the Joker’s bullet wasn’t quite as bad. It’d give a nice ‘overcoming adversity’ edge to the character, as well as allowing at least certain aspects of her life as Oracle to still be around, but I fear it’s more likely that it’ll get wiped from history – which is a shame, and I don’t think DC realise exactly what they’re throwing away with this. I understand exactly why it’s happening; the Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl is well-known, and if you’re trying to make the DC Universe as accessible to new readers as possible, and you want a Batgirl title, you need the most recognisable version of the character there. I understand the reasoning completely, but the fact is that they’re throwing away the Oracle part of Batgirl’s history for the sake of brand recognition, and simultaneously upsetting the hell out of any wheelchair-bound comics readers who considered Barbara-as-Oracle as a hero and a character that they care about (And it’s ironic, considering that DC are attempting to make lots of noise about having a more diverse and representative superhero universe, that they’re hanging this reboot on casually writing out a character’s disability). There’s an opinion piece at Newsarama that talks about this much more powerfully and eloquently than I ever could – all I can say is that while I know reboots are a natural factor of comic book storytelling, I really think this one is happening for the wrong reasons, and the DC Universe will be less interesting without Oracle in it.

So, September is the month. I’m impressed DC are going ahead with this, although I’ll be honest – not many of the announced titles have really made me think “Wow! That sounds INCREDIBLE!!” Plus, no matter how big a marketing push and how much they try and stretch out onto the new digital frontier, it’s all going to come down to the stories. These are going to have to be really good comics – all eyes are going to be on DC come September, so they’d better not mess this up…


Comic News: Reboot In Your Face (Major restarts coming in the DC Universe…)

Justice League Issue 1 Cover Jim Lee Geoff Johns Relaunch Batman Wonder Woman Cyborg Green Lantern The Flash Aquaman Superman

There’s been a lot of rumours about what’s coming up in the DC Comics superhero universe, the home of heroes like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. The current big DC event comic Flashpoint, where the whole DC universe is transformed into a dark alternative, is supposed to be leading to yet another one of those moments where ‘things will never be the same!’ On top of this, it was initially announced that in the last week of August, DC would be publishing exactly one comic – the fifth and final issue of Flashpoint. Considering DC normally has around a dozen titles coming out every week, this is a pretty major route to go for – and while it’s now been modified slightly (there are two comics coming out, rather than one), it’s clear that DC isn’t messing around.

Now, DC has started releasing official news of what they’re doing… and it’s pretty big. In a press release that’s turning up in lots of places, they’ve announced that they’re basically rebooting their whole line of superhero comics, and renumbering everything. In September, there’s going to be 52 issue ones, all of which are apparently designed to be accessible jumping-on points for new readers (and considering some of these titles are things like Action Comics, which recently crossed the 900-issue mark, this is quite a big move). Added to which, it does seem like there’s a certain amount of tweaking going on – artist and DC bigwig Jim Lee has apparently done redesigns on over 50 superhero costumes, the word ‘contemporary’ is being bandied around a lot, and it does seem like this is definitely going to be a different take on the DC Universe (with, for example, plenty of characters being aged-down into younger models). Considering that this is following Flashpoint, an event where the DC Universe is altered beyond recognition (meaning it might still be a bit different when it gets put back), it does seem like they’re going for permanent alterations to continuity, and the status quo. And, on top of all of this, every single one of these comics is going to be available day-and-date as a digital comic, through the Comixology platform that DC’s been using up until now.

The easiest bit of this to take on is the digital decision – it was obvious that at some point, one of the ‘big two’ was going to jump into the digital world with both feet (and considering DC are still running second to Marvel at the moment, it’s not a loopy idea). It’s big, and despite that they’re apparently going to run some incentives for comic shop retailers, there are going to be some unhappy people out there. Trouble is, digital isn’t going away, and this could be a very healthy move as well. The day-and-date comics will probably be exactly the same price as print (which is a tad steep for a digital comic), but it’s still a major step forward. For the first time, people who torrent comics because “Oh well, I want them on the day, and only a few titles are done day-and-date” aren’t going to have the excuse. Don’t know if it really will make piracy go down, but it’s a major step along the way to having a good legal digital alternative to piracy.

It’s the rest of it that is… interesting, if not completely convincing. Comic book continuity is a massive double-edged sword – it creates fascinating, intensely complex sagas, worlds that you can get lost in, interlocking stories that can be unlike anything else out there… but then, it can also make it impossible to keep up, especially if you’re not aware of all the tiny pieces of comic-book continuity that the story is tying into. Last week, I read the first two issues of Marvel’s The Mighty Thor, which is a relaunch of the Thor title done to tie in with the release of the Thor movie, and yet if I was a random cinemagoer who’d seen and enjoyed Thor, those two comics would have perplexed the hell out of me. (There’s a lot of reasons why comics have drifted away from being self-contained, and many of them actually only work now collected as trade paperbacks – it’s a complicated problem, and is slightly compounded by the fact that modern comic storytelling doesn’t let you easily put in narrative captions that bring everyone up to date.) And part of this problem is that the majority of the people who buy comics are the die-hard fans, who know the continuity and don’t want to read stuff that ‘doesn’t matter’ (which is one of the reasons why the brilliant out-of-continuity comic Thor: The Mighty Avenger got cancelled after eight issues, despite being a fun, all-ages and thoroughly charming adventure comic).

So, there’s a certain logic in DC’s move… but the fact that they’re going for such a drastic reboot leaves me slightly perplexed. What I’ve seen of the new costumes (shown above in the cover for Justice League issue 1, by Jim Lee) doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence (especially that ‘styled up’ version of the Superman logo, which brings back worrying memories of the Nineties ‘Electric’ Superman redesign), and the statement that they’re doing “younger, cosmetically changed versions” of these characters immediately opens up questions as to what’s in and what’s out continuity-wise. The various dark events in the Justice League’s history in Identity Crisis? Batman being presumed dead in Final Crisis (leading to the current activity in Batman Incorporated)? There’s all sorts of knots they could tie themselves in, especially with ongoing series like Grant Morrison’s Batman Inc, which certainly doesn’t feel like it’s going to end in about three months. (And what about the notoriously delayed David Finch-drawn Batman series The Dark Knight? We’re barely onto issue 3 (after it being launched in November) and now they’re bringing in filler artists – is that going to get a relaunch, or will it just stagger to issue 6 and then get quietly cancelled?)

Another question – violence. DC Comics have been getting ridiculous in terms of violence and pretty damn unpleasant adult content recently (the biggest and most ridiculous of the lot being issue 3 of Rise of Arsenal, which plays like somebody read Alan Moore’s Watchmen and took every wrong lesson from that book that it’s possible to take). Is this going to continue? If DC are looking to bring new readers in, are we still going to get showers of gore, brutal violence, and incidents like the infamous rape of character Sue Dibney?

Also, there’s the Justice League. At the same time as Flashpoint issue 5, we get issue 1 of Justice League – a relaunched version of the comic that’s often been one of DC’s biggest titles, with DC bigwigs Geoff Johns and Jim Lee at the helm (although considering how notoriously late Jim Lee can sometimes get with his art, it remains to be seen how long he’ll be staying on it – this is one comic that can’t afford to ship late). And a new line-up, taking us mostly back to the Grant Morrison era JLA, where he took the then-pretty-ballsy move of actually putting DC’s biggest guns together – we get Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash and Wonder Woman. Oh, and Aquaman. And… er… Cyborg. (I mean, really? Cyborg? They seem to be making a lot of finally trying to make the DC Universe look a little more multi-cultural, after some very unfortunate examples of ethnic ‘legacy’ superhero characters meeting horrible ends and being replaced by their previous white alter-egos, but that’s the guy you promote to DC’s A-list? That’s the guy at the forefront of DC’s new ‘contemporary’ style – a character who fit in with the Teen Titans back in the Eighties and Nineties, but doesn’t exactly look tremendously sensible now?)

It’s possible, of course, that Flashpoint might act a little like the Time War in current Doctor Who continuity – a way of buffering the new continuity from the old. Old Who continuity is still there, and while there have been tweaks and rewrites (hello, new Cybermen) it hasn’t been completely up-ended in the way a new version of Who could have relaunched everything. There’s any number of ways they could be doing things – the fact that DC are potentially transforming their core universe into a version of the Marvel Ultimate universe (which was originally created as a jumping-on point for new readers, and a more ‘contemporary’ take on the characters) is certainly brave. The potential for messing this up is pretty big, of course, but modern-day mainstream comics certainly need new approaches, and anything which might free them up from the constraints of selling to the direct market (to fans who regularly bitch about event comics and getting more of the same, and yet only ever seem to buy big event comics and ignore the new, riskier titles) has got to be a good thing…

Movie Trailer – The Adventures of Tintin

Adventures of Tintin Poster Steven Spielberg Herge Peter Jackson 2011

The Adventures of Tintin is something that’s intrigued me for a while – I grew up with Tintin, it formed part of my love of comic books, and stories like The Crab with the Golden Claws, Prisoners of the Sun and Explorers on the Moon are seared into my subconscious. Herge’s globe-trotting adventures have always had a massive appeal, and while a full-on live action adaptation would have just been wrong, the concept of a motion-capture CG adaptation that kept to Herge’s distinctive style was… interesting.

Then, there’s the creative team behind this. The first draft of the screenplay was done by Steven Moffat (before some sci-fi series started taking up all his time), with further work done by Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish. It’s being directed by Steven Spielberg, with the next in the series due to be helmed by Peter Jackson. The still images we’ve seen so far have been interesting – lurking in a halfway house between photo-realism and Herge’s original artwork.

Well, now we’ve got our first actual footage from the film. The teaser trailer for the film is now up in Hi-Def at the Apple trailers site, and it’s… interesting. It looks exactly as gorgeous as you’d expect (especially since, as far as I know, Weta Digital is handling all the animation), with many of the early shots not even looking computer-generated, and there’s a couple of moments which suggest that Spielberg handling 3-D could be an interesting experience. (There’s also the fact that despite this first instalment in the planned franchise being largely an adaptation of The Secret of the Unicorn, there’s a big chunk of The Crab with the Golden Claws in this teaser, suggesting we’re getting a brisk origin for Tintin and Captain Haddock’s friendship). The one thing it doesn’t do, of course, is show us much of the characters or much of the dialogue, giving us no chance to see if they’ve succesfully transferred the leaps in motion capture made by the Avatar crew into a film which doesn’t star giant blue pointy-eared space elves. The end shot of Tintin himself is gorgeously executed and amazingly photo-real, and the stylisation may prevent this from falling into the glassy-eyed creepiness that Robert Zemeckis’ mo-cap films have often ended up with. However, until we see some actual scenes, I’m going to reserve judgement, and The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn will remain something I’m interested in, but not quite genuinely excited about yet…