Friday, May 22, 2009

I Have a comic coming out!

I have a story coming out in the soon-to-be-released ICONIC graphic novel from the Comicbook Artists Guild.
Iconic Cover

The concept of ICONIC is simple: new twists on old tales of classic literature and history. The heroes in ICONIC are folks you’re already familiar with: Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, St. George and the Dragon, and others. It’s 112 pages of fun and adventure targeted to comic book readers old and new.

My story is a reimagining of the tale of St. George and the Dragon. This time it’s all about a little boy named George versus the monster in his closet.

The book itself is a monumental effort by CAG, the first truly worldwide collaboration by its members. It’s debuting at the MOCCA Art Festival in NYC next month and will cost you a mere $10. More info on CAG and ICONIC can be found at

Monday, May 11, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine Review

Wolverine Review

Right off the bat let me say that XMO: W is an average film. Maybe a little below average, but I honestly did not expect much from the flick. I’m not one of those comic book fans who is slavishly tied to canon that I feel any deviation from the source material is grounds for complete dismissal of a film. In fact, quite the opposite. There are a lot of story details from comics that would never work on screen, either with respect to audience or budget. Most source materials need to and should change to fit the medium. As such, when I judge a superhero movie, I try to judge it from the point of view of how well it worked as a movie, first and foremost.

What did I like about the film? Hugh Jackman and Liev Schrieber had excellent turns in their respective roles. It was fun seeing Wolverine in his own flick. I thought some of the scenes were really well done cinematically, especially some of the final fight scene, and very evocative of comic book artwork. Ryan Reynolds was great.

In particular, I would point out the credit sequence. There is more style and substance in that set of images than most of the film. If you pay attention to the faces of Jackman and Schrieber throughout the war scenes, you can actually see the gradual change in their characters through those events. Victor Creed shows more and more bloodlust as Jimmy Howlett becomes more alarmed at his brothers behavior. It was nicely and subtly done. Perhaps the only subtlety in the film.

Beyond that, I felt that, as one film critic said, “all the explosions go off when they are supposed to.”

My biggest problem with the film was the effects. I simply do not understand how a summer tent pole movie could have been released with the sorry excuse for CGI that was on display here. Others have enumerated many examples, so it’s not worth going into specifics. I will say, however, that I thought the diamond effect on Emma Frost looked particularly like a Sci-Fi Channel Saturday movie effect. Seriously? She looked more like an impersonation of the jewel-encrusted teeth in a gang bangers grill than her body turning to diamond.

Gambit was also a completely unnecessary addition. Fan service at it’s worst. It would have been far cleaner to replace that entire sequence with Wraith and Wolverine going in search of Fred Dukes and finding the island location from him than shoe-horning in another popular character. I would like to know who thought outfitting Gambit like a cross between Peter Doherty and Johnny Depp from Benny and Joon was a good idea. The fight scene was completely nonsensical (in an even more logic-impaired film). Plus, let’s face it; Taylor Kitsch cannot act.

I really don’t think that the Deadpool character was as poorly served as most of the fans out there are claiming. Take the key points of the character from the comics:
- Smart-ass mercenary
- Undergoes Weapon X procedure to get healing powers
- Ends up with horribly scarred skin and almost limitless healing factor
- Has a teleportation device

As we see Ryan Reynolds earlier in the film, he definitely has the merc with a mouth attitude. He definitely does undergo a government procedure that gives him the healing power. And his skin is most definitely messed up in the end.

As for the teleportation device, all we need to do is look at Spider-Man the movie to understand the thinking on this one. You’ll remember that they took Spidey’s web-shooters and made them an actual part of Peter Parkers biology; I submit that the same thought process is at work here. It’s easier to make it a mutant power solution, as established with the Wraith character, working within the framework of the script than to tack on a technological gimmick.

The “silent” Deadpool part didn’t even bother me that much. Stryker clearly telegraphs this move in the assault in Africa when tells Wade he’d, “Be the perfect soldier if you’d just shut your mouth.” It seems natural that a sadist like Stryker would do just that when he had his opportunity. It’s also not beyond me to think that in a follow-up film, this Deadpool characterization would be so glad to be able to speak again that he would never shut up. It’s motivation to be more of a merc with a mouth.

The only part of Deadpool’s origin that wasn’t addressed in the film is the fact that he underwent the process in an attempt to stop the cancer that was rapidly killing him. Honestly, that part is unnecessary for this film anyway and could easily be shown/referred to in a Deadpool spin-off.

That leaves the whole “Weapon XI” situation. Yes, I thought it was goofy, but not unnecessary. The script they wrote left them no choice, really, but I’ll get to that in a minute. I’m fully prepared to let the moviemakers have a mulligan on this aspect of Deadpool. Heresy, I know, but here’s my justification: the doctors tell Stryker that he is unstable before he unleashes him on Wolverine. In comics, or comic book movies, that’s your get out of jail free card. It’s the equivalent of showing a gun in the first act. With one line of dialogue, you can write out the eye beams and even the teleportation if they want.

This is after all Comic Book Logic we are talking about.

In a world where Jean Grey becomes the Phoenix, then dies in the Blue area of the moon, only to be found at the bottom of the Hudson Bay alive because that wasn’t her, just a manifestation of the Phoenix Force using her as a template, only to die and then come back again…

Or a world where Captain America’s sidekick Bucky was blown up stopping a bomber in the last days of WWII only to find out that he was fished out of the icy waters by Russian soldiers, brainwashed and given a cybernetic arm, then keep in cryogenic freeze only to be revived periodically through the years as the Winter Soldier to conduct covert assassinations for the Soviet government until finally regaining his memory in 2006…

Well, I hope you get my point. To argue that that doesn’t make any sense when healing factors and weather control does seems a bit silly to me. If they say those powers didn’t stick, I’ll go with it.

There are two traps that I feel the screenwriters fell into that really hurt this film: (1) feeling the need for a “Big Bad” or “Boss Level” villain and (2) attempting to make the story too tight and self-contained.

The writers undercut Sabretooth as a possibility for the epic villain for the final set piece. Being that Victor and Logan are brothers and we are shown not only them growing up together, but they also have three other fight scenes with each other throughout the film. To make the last fight scene, as big and very the top as these movies seem to need, there’s no way it could have been Sabretooth. Likewise, there’s no way that the moviemakers would introduce a new character that late into the film. By process of elimination, Deadpool would be the likely candidate. Unfortunately the screenwriters wrote themselves into a corner in that he needed to be something more threatening for Logan and Victor to take one.

You can almost see the pieces falling into place: he needs more powers, from the Taskforce X group, also captive mutants to steal them from (optic blast), now we need to write Cyclops into the script, Victor needs to track them down and kill them, he’ll come into conflict with Wolverine, they need Wolverine’s healing factor… and so on. The film has it’s own logic in cause and effect. It’s not a good or particularly elegant script, but I can at least understand the hows and whys of the thinking.

The second trap that screenwriters fall into, and frankly I can’t understand the need for, is the compulsion to make everything fit neatly together. Emma Frost just happens to be Silverfox’s sister. Cyclops escapes into the waiting arms of Xavier. Silverfox has Tactile Mind Control to explain her ability to control Wolvie. Sabretooth and Wolverine are brothers. Silverfox gave Wolverine his name. I could go on. There’s simply no need to create some of these connections out of whole cloth just because you feel the need to have a deeper motivation for your characters. Life is not that tidy and these films don’t need to be either.

Sabretooth doesn’t need to be Wolverine’s brother for a motivation. It can be as simple as the fact that they are too similar. Most predators will fight for territory or pack status and that’s all the motivation you need for Sabretooth.

In the end, Wolverine suffers from the same problems that plague a lot of latter iterations of Superhero genre films: trying to pack too many characters and storylines into a small amount of time to the detriment of story and character development. Concentrating on good, solid storytelling rather than trying to make each additional film bigger and more bombastic than the last would better serve us as an audience.