Sunday, April 30, 2006

FF7 Advent Children

Ever since I first played Final Fantasy 7 during my freshman year of college I've been a fan of all the Final Fantasy games (well at least all the SNES ones, and FF7 too of course). So it was with bated breath that I awaited Advent Children's release into the US. I have to say, I'm pretty disappointed.

The story for the FF7 video game, while confusing at times, was great. It had romance, tragedy, cloning, Red 13, shiny video sequences, cross-dressing, Red 13, and epic battles. If they had made the game's story into a movie I think fans everywhere would have been happy. Instead we're given a sequel to the game's plot and not only is the English translation painful, there really isn't much plot.

The movie is pretty, and has cool battles (and Vincent is awesome), but that's really not enough. I'm still confused as to what they were trying to do with the plot. I assume they just threw a bunch of stuff together to have Sephiroth come back for 3 minutes.

I have yet to figure out why creators take good stories, toss them out the window, and replace them with crap. It makes me sad.

So far, comic book movies = the win, video game movies = pretty bad.

Only YOU can prevent illiteracy!

You fight those books Spidey!
Although I'm not sure how this helps fight illiteracy...
and what, in God's name, is Squirt??

My love-hate relationship with the X-Men

Up until a few months ago I hadn't touched a new Marvel comic book in years. I have always been a bigger fan of DC, but when I was a kid I used to love reading the Uncanny X-Men, Spiderman, Excalibur, the F4, etc. So what happened to Marvel?

With the Essentials books making their way into the stores I found myslef reading a lot of the stories I used to enjoy as a kid growing up in my Dad's comic store. I began to remember how much I loved the humor and strange sense of family in Prof. X's mansion. I found myself happily enveloped in the budding romance between Colossus and Kitty Pryde, in Nightcrawler's swashbuckling existence, in seeing Scott get the chewing out he deserved, in seeing the formation of the "X-Babies". So what did I do? I went out to the local comic book store and purchased some of the more recent Marvel books to see what I had been missing during my long absense.

I must say, it was a rude awakening.

On one hand, many of the characters were as I remembered them. Thanks to my long hiatus I had managed to avoid Nightcrawler's spandex priest uniform and Wolverine's killing spree (among many other things). Happily both Nightcrawler and Kitty (my two favorite X-Men) were much as I remembered them, although I was always fond of Kitty as Shadowcat and now she's just Kitty. Thankfully Jubilie was hit by M-day, I always hated that character. Scott is still pretty whiny, and Rachel has become even cooler in my absense. But then there's Emma Frost. I get really tired of reformed bad guys - it was annoying enough with Magneto, but for heaven's sake, when we first met Emma she was literally torturing Storm! C'mon, I'm supposed to believe after everything she did as a bad guy that she's reformed?? I mean, check out the picture below - does Emma look like a good-guy? No, she looks like some wierd S&M
chick. She pretty much screams evil vixen. Even Jean Grey as Dark
Phoenix seems less likely to kill you. And then on top of this Scott is
sleeping with Emma. Sure, I can understand that Scott needed to move on after the amount of times his girl kept dying and coming back (not that he ever deserved her) but, Emma Frost? I'm sorry but I remember my Dad reading comics to me as a kid. I would not read any child a comic with Emma Frost as a good guy - I wouldn't want a kid looking up to someone like that.

Lets move on to plot then, shall we? Marvel's plotlines have only seemed to grow more convoluted over the years. Even back in the early 90s I was growing more and more confused trying to keep up with the Marvel Universe. Granted, much of this can be initially blamed by Secret Wars, but not all of it. Now there is all the M-day stuff, Marvel's answer to Infinite Crisis. While it has shaken up the Marvel Universe and has created such good reads as Generation M and the newest X-Factor issues, it has also made a lot of things even more convoluted. I am fairly confused by the new Excalibur storylines as well as some of Deadly Genesis (due to the fact that I hate trying to resolve continuity withing Marvel). I believe that Marvel has a chance to actually write good stories again but after reading Uncanny X-Men 472 I'm beginning to lose hope.

The more recent stories with Rachel and the Grey family were interesting. You cared about the stories because you cared about the characters. Now its seems Marvel is reverting to world-shaking crisises for plot again. The way I see it is they have just had M-Day. For once, it'd be nice if they focused on their characters again. People don't stick with Spiderman or Wolverine because of how many times they are involved in saving the world. They keep reading because they like the characters. If only Marvel would interweave the actual character's stories in WITH the action I think they could have good stories again. If only... *sigh*

Oh well, at least Nightcrawler is still pretty awesome :) I will just have to content myself with remembering the days of the BAMF doll.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Action Philosophers #5

Thanks to my Dad I have now been introduced to Action Philosophers. This is an amazing comic. I mean I've taken philosophy classes before, I've read Waiting for Godot for my senior year in high school, and I've even read Sophie's World. But really, I can't think of a better way to explore different philosophical viewpoints than by turning famous philosophers into Action Heros (of a sort). Somewhat reminescant of my favorite translations of The Art of War (because everything is better as a comic book!)

This fun filled issue featured Descartes, Sartre, and best of all Derrida. Words cannot adequately describe the true power of images such as a spaceman sticking out his tongue at Abe Lincoln, or images of God literally stamping his work. Even the horribly awful "Denile" to the Nile pun worked in this comic.

But the absolute best is Jacques Derrida as "THE DECONSTRUCTIONATOR"

All this and learning too!

If you are not reading this comic you should be. I look forward to the reprint of #s 1-3 in June when I will get to see Joseph Campbell in Action!

I <3 Nightwing

My hatred of Devin Grayson (as far as her Nightwing work goes) and the ongoing web discussions about Nightwing has inspired me to create my own blog. I feel that someone who loves the Nightwing character should speak out for poor, abused Dick Grayson.

Now most everyone who reads comics knows that Dick Grayson started out as Batman's wise-cracking side kick, less permanantly traumatized by witnessing his parents' death than Bats (in the sense he managed to still smile, where Bats takes everything very seriously). Some recent discussion about the idea that Nightwing isn't doing so well as a character because of being written as "the guy who used to be Robin" as opposed to "the guy who Robin grew up to become" has intrigued me.

Let's go back to Nightwing's beginnings. I have both Nightwing Year One and The New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract as references here. The whole idea was for Dick to become his own man and step away from the role of kid sidekick. In the Teen Titans book We have just a general grand entrance even down to the hokey "Are you people ready? Say hello to---Nightwing". I would like to mention that even inbetween vigilante gigs Dick is the only Titan to get away from Deathstroke. In fact the whole time period of the Judas Contract is key to understanding the character of Nightwing. There are some pretty character defining quotes in here:
DGrayson: Don't you see? Robing will always be the back half of "Batman and...". But Robin belongs with Batman fighting at his side. Touble is - I don't.
Deathstroke: Tricky brat - gotta admire him though. Took one chance in a million and he made it. He got away.
Deathstroke: Grayson's their leader beacuse he's the best. Powers augment a person, they don't make 'im.

The crux of all of this, the point Devin Grayson and now Bruce Jones seemed to have missed, is this quote:
DG: I'm not the same kid. I've changed.

If the problem is writing him as "the guy who was Robin" then obviously they haven't done their character research.

I think the main problem is more simple though. Readin through the Infinite Crisis storylines I've noticed that all the people who write Nightwing as a "guest-star" give the character the respect he deserves. I attribute this the the idea that when writing someone else's character you try to respect that character and work within the personality that has been established for them. Yet his own writer's can't seem to find his voice. This, I believe, is due to two issues.
1. The tempatation to screw around with a pre-established character to make them into your own creation. This creates problems in continuity based books. If you want to create your own character, do so. Don't try to turn a pre-established character into something it's not. Character growth = awesome. Character butchering = NOT COOL.
2. Lack of respect for a character. The #1 rule of writing (as far as I'm concerned) is to love your characters. Why was it so sad when Barry Allen died? Because the writers loved that character - and so the readers did too. If you don't respect your characters neither will the readers. Devin Grayson didn't respect and love Nightwing - so she made him into someone no one likes (at least no one who liked him as an actual hero).

Nightwing is a true hero - because it's not about the costume he wears, or his physical prowess, or even his intellect. It's about his spirit. I will continue to hope for the day that DC puts a writer on Nightwing who loves the character the way I do.