When Writers Put Back Their Toys

Because I go to a shop that's sort of far away from the place where I live, and also because I was home last week due to Thanksgiving, I hadn't gotten to read the Giant Size Thor Finale until yesterday, when I went to Millbrook to pick it up from my shop.

As the title of the issue indicates, it is JMS's last issue on the book, which is both a good thing and a bad one. On the one hand, maybe now that Kieron Gillen is writing the title, it'll ship on time. On the other hand, JMS's run was unbelievably fantastic- each time I thought it couldn't get any better, it did. The Giant Size Finale isn't his best issue of the series, but it is still pretty good (the highlight, by the way, is Volstagg being badass, something which will never cease to delight me). Unfortunately, JMS saw fit to end his run in a way that always makes me cringe: he decided to put his toys away before he went home.

When I say that, what I mean is this- JMS decided that, in the last issue of his run, he was going to reintegrate certain parts of the status quo before he started writing the title a few years ago. Now, this is his right, but I don't understand why writers feel the need to do this. By killing one of the most interesting characters he introduced during the course of his run, he prevents us from seeing where another writer would have taken the concept (one that was, by all means, worth developing further). Additionally, I think I wouldn't be quite so pissed about the whole thing if Kieron Gillen hadn't sort of mishandled the fallout (which is in the preview for Thor#604 at the end of the issue)- although I suppose it could still have the dire consequences for the book's villians that I think it should have.

I understand that the above paragraph is nebelous, and it was the less egregious of the two examples anyway- what really makes me wonder why unwriting of this sort is necessary is that JMS gives Donald Blake his limp back.

I know, I know, it doesn't sound like a lot, but it is- he couldn't have just let Donald Blake keep walking normally? Why not? I mean, it's not like it's essential to the character, or anything- if it were, the run wouldn't have been nearly as successful. The whole half-cripped-guy-turns-out-to-have-superpowers thing is pretty played out at this point, so I'm not sure it's actually going to bring anything to the comic that wasn't already there.

The only concievable reason why any writer should unwrite him/herself like that is because they don't trust whoever is coming up next to play with the new status quo very well (or, at least the first writer thinks the second one won't). Quite honestly, it's kind of arrogant, and it brings a run of issues that should have ended with a bang (Volstagg being badass and associated dick joke notwithstanding) out with a little bit of whimper.

I understand that this is, in the end, a very small complaint. The book is a good book, and I certainly recommend reading it if you want to get into Thor, but this sort of writing frustrates me to no end because it nullifies ideas that make comics interesting- something that we're always a little short on.

How exciting is this shit!?

We are now numero THREE in Google searches for "long and shortbox"!

(Click the images to see them in better detail.)

Even better, if you narrow it somehow, like with the word "reviews" or "editorial", we're number one! Yeah, it's just a popularity game. But that's the internet for you. Gotta be easy to be found to get read!


Google bases this stuff on page hits as well as number of times you link back to us. So a big, big thanks to all our readers!

And a personal thank you to my two fellow bloggers Clare Nolan and Josh Kopin, who continue to stretch themselves to provide excellent reporting and opinions on our favorite entertainment medium.

Here's to more months of THE LONG AND SHORTBOX OF IT!

An "Arch" of Progress

Two weeks ago I had the honor of attending opening night of the latest MoCCA exhibit:




, an exhibit on the history and 'Arch' of evolution of the never-aging Archie Andrews and the company named for him, Archie Comics. It will run from November 19th of '09 until February 28th of 2010.

Check out my fantastically awkward video of the festivities!

video

(Somehow tilting my iPhone entirely to the side seemed like a good idea at the time...)

Like all of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art's exhibits and festivals, I highly recommend going. If you're in the NYC area, or will be sometime before the end of February, you should mosey on down to 594 Broadway and check this out!

The exhibit moves through each decade of Archie's existence and points out the ways in which he changed to suit the times. The original art for the Eighties cover depicting old-school-Dan DeCarlo/Archie-style drawings of high school kids in punk fashions is amazing. The best delight is the few pages of art from an unpublished Archie story in which Archie reads a letter from his adult cousin Andy Andrews aloud in class, and everyone enjoys a rousing (and probably bogus) spy-story by proxy.

Finally, the exhibit also includes some material from other Archie Comics creations like Josie and the Pussycats (which was adapted to film) and Sabrina the Teenage Witch (which was adapted to an animated TV series, a TV movie, a very successful live-action TV series, and then... another animated TV series).

To say that Archie Comics is just the little brother to the Marvels and the DCs isn't... well honestly, it's just not as true as I thought it was. Are they putting out the same quality as Marvel and DC? I would say no, but that's really an opinion anyway, isn't it? I think they're making a good step in the right direction with this ongoing "Archie Gets Married" story-line structured around the famous Robert Frost poem, "The Road Not Taken". The idea is that as Archie reads the poem, he receives visions of his possible futures: three issues depicting what it would be like if he married Betty, three issues depicting what it would be like if he married Veronica. Whether all this really constitutes strong art is, again, purely opinion.

Original art from the currently ongoing story is on display at the exhibit. Me thinks you should go to MoCCA and decide for yourself!

Free for MoCCA members, $5 admission for non-members.

Gorga's Looking Forward to Wednesday 12/2/2oo9

Sorry to those (any?) of you who follow us weekly and have been missing my weekly pull-list posts. Starting my new seasonal position at a museum's gift shop has made my schedule a little too hectic to be regular...

weeklies:

"Jonah Hex" #50
Darwyn Cooke is such a genius that the comics he makes are rarely NOT worth looking at. This week a double-sized issue of Jonah Hex arrives drawn by him.

"Siege: The Cabal"
jesus... Read the preview pages.

"Supergod" #2
Haven't finished ish #1, but I am intrigued.
Disgusted, but intrigued.

Books:

"Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary"
This sounds wonderful...

"365 Samurai and a Few Bowls of Rice"
This looks like genius, right here.

A nice light week.

Last week I bought a huge number of things at the two Black Friday sales in Manhattan: one at Jim Hanley's Universe and another at St. Mark's Comics. (The St. Mark's sale doesn't end until this Wednesday, which means you can get your weeklies there for 10% off! Shhh!) To list everything would be stupid and a waste of your time.

The two things I will mention are two graphic novels that I had been very excited about for a long while: "Asterios Polyp" by David Mazzucchelli and "Monsters" by Ken Dahl.

Who knows? You may see a review pop up on the latter from me eventually!

UPDATE: 12/2/2oo9

Right. Because of Thanksgiving the schedule was pulled back, so the new books will be out on Thursday the 3rd. Sorry about that.

UPDATE: 12/5/2oo9

I just picked up "Siege: The Cabal" and "365 Samurai And A Few Bowls of Rice" this week.

I passed on "Binky Brown" because it's a giant commemorative over-sized reprint of what was originally a tiny mini-comic. It's also a reproduction of the original art, white-out strokes and all, not the comic-as-printed in 1972. Not my bag, man.

I couldn't find "Supergod" #2 anywhere...

By the way, I've learned that "Monsters" isn't really a graphic novel. It was a mini-series. (See: #1, #2, and #3.)

It's Astonishing

One of the advantages of going home for Thanksgiving was getting to finally pick up my issues of Astonishing X-Men, the last vestiges of the days when I used to get my books directly through Marvel. Because Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi only produced a few issues of that book in between July of 2008 and June of 2009, I still had seven issues left on my subscription when the Ellis/Phil Jimenez run began a couple of months ago.

Two (#31 and #32) of those issues were sent to my house in Chicago's suburbs, and there they sat- until this weekend, when I took them, brought them back to school with me, and read them.

They blew my mind.

I think that, at this point, it might be something of a cliche to say that Warren Ellis is a genius but I'm going to say it anyway: Warren Ellis is a genius. These two issues may be the most perfect comics I've read in a long time- maybe not the most interesting, maybe not the most fun, maybe not even the best- but certainly the most perfect. Everything that's good about comics, and about the X-Men in particular- action, adventure, soap opera, one liners, air harpoons-is in these issues.

From these pages it's clear that Warren Ellis gets the X-Men and furthermore that he gets what the X-Men are currently missing. The story (which is set in the near past, before Scott leads his people onto Utopia) is exactly what a comics story should be- that is, it's not trying to be something it isn't. It's big, it's bombastic, there are lots of explosions and cool aliens and spaceships and bio-sentinels and giant air harpoons and everything that makes comics wonderful, but at the same time it doesn't really stretch into absurdity.

Now, I understand that I can get in trouble saying something like that- comics are inherently absurd (did I mention that the book has air harpoons?). While it may be absurd, however, it takes itself just seriously enough. It's not too grim n' gritty, but at the same time it's not too ridiculous either.

Furthermore, Ellis gets the team dynamic just right. While Uncanny sometimes feels like a Scott Summers solo book, Astonishing really feels like a team book, like every member is contributing something and isn't just some mean to an end in Cyke's grand plan. The dialogue, the back and forth, the bickering, it's all there and it's all brilliant.

Phil Jimenez's art helps. While Simone Bianchi is an excellent artist, I think his work is just too pretty to make really good comics. It lacks that energy that Jimenez brings to the book in spades, and I think that such an energy was sorely needed- it pushes the book from fantastic to near-perfect. While certain artists seem to do static or dynamic but not both, Jimenez makes both look easy, and he transitions between the two seamlessly, page to page and even panel to panel.

If you're unhappy with the current X-Men status quo, pick the book up. If you like Warren Ellis, pick the book up. If you want to see crazy shit go down, pick the book up. I can't emphasize enough how unbelievably cool this stuff is, because it's a near perfect comic book. Ellis and Jimenez clearly have a story worth telling on their hands, and you're going to miss out if you aren't there to see it.