Saturday, March 31, 2012

Blah Blah Golden Age Blah Blah

It's been a long time since I've studied my parts of the brain, and I really don't want to disagree with the disembodied head, but where exactly is the "great musician" part of the brain? In the hypothalamus?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

MAD MEN 5.1/5.2--"A Little Kiss"

It's that time again, after only, what--17 months?--it's time once again, for Witless Prattle's continuing coverage of Mad Men, a show that you would rather think would be at odds with the blog's mission statement--er, if Witless Prattle could ever have been said to have a mission statement (and thank God I don't) It's good to be back in the saddle and have something that actually enforces a little discipline, and I'm also rather glad that for the next three months or so, "Best dinosaur comics" and "power girls tits" won't be the main sources of traffic for this blog.

So let's begin! Last time, things had been thrown into quite a tizzy, as Don had got engaged under rather specious circumstances, Joan had a bun in the oven (possibly--the argument for or against made it Schrodinger's baby, kinda) and we've skipped ahead from all that. Fortunately we have two hours to catch up with things, and after such a long layover, we really need it.

"I hope to be dead by Christmas."

Thanks for the close-up of the baby's ass, TV show! You could have just taken my word I was paying attention!

Not that everyone's doing all that well--Don's turning 40, Roger's been sidelined (turning ever so slowly in Bert Cooper, who apparently didn't quit and is still drifting around the office) and Pete is, in his usual oily, flesh-crawling way, completely ill at ease with the sad sack he fears he's becoming (best summed up by his choice of jacket for Don's surprise party. Holy shit, that thing nearly killed the pixels on my HDTV.

Don's staring at the notion he may not be able to stay as au courant at 40 as he did when he was younger (remember when he was all hip and balling beatniks in the Village?) and fears that he's the butt of Megan's laughter (Roger assures him he isn't, speaking with the voice of experience) What's worse, Sally doesn't seem to get on with Megan any more than she does with her mother, Peggy suspects he's losing his edge, and Don admits as much about it at the end of the episode--he's not really into work anymore.

Megan throwing him a surprise party seems to make that point exceedingly sharp, and leads to them having a rather ugly argument, wherein we learn that Don at least told her about the whole Dick Whitman thing (that's progress, I reckon) and Don gets all bitchy after the surprise party because he feels like he's been embarrassed (if by "embarrassed" you mean "reminded he's getting past his sell-by date)

Roger, meanwhile, is being quietly shoved into pasture, but is not going entirely quietly, content to passive-aggressively needle Pete and try to poach his clients, and prank the competition, an idle prank which causes big-ass ripples through the episode. Pete responds by holding a new/old client's (Mohawk Airlines, last seen in season 2) account hostage on account of trying to get a better office and leverage himself into a position of power. It goes about as well as you'd expect, namely there's about as much tension between him and Roger as there are between the Lannisters and the Starks.

Not that Pete's not doing that well himself. He's arrived, got his kid, got his house in the suburbs, but he seems a little unfulfilled, fearing it's already over for him. So he pulls his little power play with Roger for a better, more impressive office, which Roger handles in the way these things usually resolve--by making Harry Crane (whose weight has decreased in proportion to his slime-ball-ness) give up his office. I'd like to think that Roger keeps a grand in change on him at all times just for this this kind of thing. Then again, making Harry Crane suffer is kind of the official sport of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, innit? Not like he doesn't have it coming, really.

Things aren't much better the further we get from the center of power. Peggy bombs the big presentation with Heinz (a holdover from Dr. Faye's efforts last season--nice continuity there) and feels cut adrift from Don, and then Megan has a go at her for complaining about work at her party (Sheesh, doesn't seem like that's fair) and Lane tries to return a wallet in a means so creepy it feels like it belongs in a Todd Solodnz movie. Seriously, that whole scene was weird.

And then there's Joan. Sadly, Dr. Rapist is still alive it seems, and baby life is really not agreeing with her (holding down an office full of crazy people? Snap. One infant? Hell on Earth) Part of it's the sleep-deprivation (is that the #1 complaint of all new parents? Seems to be.) Part of it's what seems like post-partum depression; Part of it is dealing with her mother, and part of it is her fear, like Don and Roger, that she's getting shuffled on, a feeling only compounded when she visits SCDP and everyone is happy to see her, yet fobs her off all the same. It finally culminates in her breaking down with Lane, who thankfully retrains his wallet-related creepiness enough to be actually supportive.

Shame. Next time she'll wheel that baby cart in like Itto Ogami if the whole "being made to feel irrelevant" stuff keeps up.

Then again, as we wrap-up for this week, it seems like the secret to the Don/Megan marriage is not dissimilar to when he hired a hooker to slap him around last season. Also, she cleans her apartment in a bra and panties. They had weird ideas of what constituted domestic bliss in the '60s . . .

So this was pretty good. I can't really say it was a return to form or like we never left because Mad Men doesn't work that way. Clever bit of meta-commentary with Mad Men returning to the air after a year and change and featuring damn never everyone in the cast second-guessing whether or not they're "with it" anymore. Of course, given we're now rounding the first year (of show-time--actual time has jumped ahead more than that--and against the backdrop of the 60's things are changing in ways that are going to leave people behind, especially as they find the breezy, idle stuff they used to get away with gets them into situations they aren't entirely equipped to handle.

And we'll leave it there for now. Join us next week for another episode of Mad Men, and for those of you who are new here, we don't even bother trying to decipher the "next episode" promos. There's no sense in reading "Tea Leaves" now when we can talk about it next week at length. Until then--soupy twist!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

This Week, I Can't Think Of Another Song With Gold In It Anywhere . . .

As many bong hits as they've had prior to this, this is pretty much the appropriate response to someone pointing a gun at you and saying "we're gonna go see THE MONSTER, ha ha ha!"

Sunday, March 18, 2012


No, not the book--the animated film that everyone pissed on when it was due to come out because it couldn't possibly be the book, because comics fans are nothing if not open-minded when it comes to adaptations of works much beloved and admired.

For my own part, given that the Blu-Ray was cheap, I decided to buy it and give it a watch. Wonder of wonders, it's not bad--the 75 minute running time means rather a lot has to get chopped out (and no, it really doesn't look like Quitely's art, but then there's no way in hell you were going to get dozens of underpaid Korean animators to draw like him) but the essence of the story's there, and it works well enough. It's no substitute for the book, but it's diverting enough for an hour and change, and it's one of the first time's we've seen someone try to adapt Morrison's work outside of its native medium, so it's instructive on many levels, I'd say.

On an unrelated yet not, tip--what does everyone think makes a better "final" Superman story--All-Star or "Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?" They both have their charms, but I give All-Star a bit more of an edge--I'd like to think Superman would go out on a bit more of a high-note in terms of positivity than Moore's story left him in. Understandably, y'all's mileage may vary on that, but I'd be interested to hear why.

In any event, bottom line: It's not bad, and holds together rather durably. If you can find it cheap, it's worth picking up.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I Read This-TERRA

So we'd recently covered both volumes of the Jimmy Palmiotti/Justin Gray/Amanda Conner Power Girl run here recently, and while it kinda fizzled there at the end and displayed a few more bad habits of DC than perhaps it should, it was on the whole a very fun book that I enjoyed reading, which is why DC put Judd Winick on it, because apparently it's better for me to not enjoy the things I once enjoyed somehow.

So, casting about for more goodness by this art team, I happened upon Terra, by the same group done right before their Power Girl run started. In a way, it functions as a pilot for Power Girl as it sets up the Terra/Power Girl dynamic that was such a big part of the fun of Power Girl. On the other hand, it's slightly problematic, as the Terra here isn't exactly the one in the series (except she's supposed to be, which is weird, as it's the same creative team so . . .yeah) and in general, it has a lot of the problems that the Power Girl series ended up having.

I'll explain as we go.

We begin with an issue of Supergirl, which features the new Terra's first appearance, which is for me, less of an issue than: holy shit, the 2000s-era Supergirl was hellishly unlikeable, wasn't she? I think something happens when comic companies try so hard to say "no, this version isn't like his/her predecessors, we promise!" That there is a danger they repeat the same few beats over and over again early enough where things calcify in the reader's mind and the way that character is is The Way That Character Is. It's why Jason Todd is an asshole, why Donna Troy is a storyteller's nightmare, and why this iteration of Supergirl is so very unlikeable.

The entire issue is her trying to justify being bratty and selfish while Terra fights a giant monster. She resents having everyone expect her to fight it just because she has an "S" on her chest (that this might be averted by NOT WEARING SUPERMAN'S SHIELD and thus averting that expectation has apparently not occurred to her.) Oh, and also she;s hanging around with captain Boomerang's kid from Identity Crisis because of reasons, I guess.

As an introduction to Terra, it doesn't work very well, generally because out point of view character (Supergirl) is so obnoxious and so remote from Terra that no real connection is made with the reader, and they can't really do anything in the intro issue, because the whole point is to make people buy the miniseries, so you don't burn off your trump card initially.

So what follows is the mini-series, and . . .uhm, it's certainly not decompressed, I'll say that much. No, actually the problem is that it's crunched into incoherence. You have the mystery of who Terra is, a bad guy who turns into diamond and his wife who turns into a similar yet different diamond and he goes nuts and Geo-Force shows up and we're also establishing her and Power Girl as best friends and . . .it's all done with such rapid-fire pacing that they really don't give any story element sufficient enough time to breathe, and as a result, it feels a little less than coherent. I wonder if they didn't have two issues cut down, as it feels like two three-issue stories

That's not to say it's not done with some skill--certainly Amanda Conner does a great job making everything expressive and action-y and things hum along sufficiently artistically that you at least don't fret over the weaknesses in story until you actually think it through afterwards. It's just that it could have been so much more (and ultimately, with their Power Girl run was--mostly) that it's a shame they didn't hit their groove sooner.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Just Sayin'--Catching Up In More Ways Than One

Apologies for the lack of updates lately--the twin afflictions of real life and my recent addiction to Game of Thrones (I like that Game of Thrones disc come equipped with a "what the hell are these people talking about" which delivers exposition on demand. More shows should do that) have conspired to cut into my blogging time. As I've accrued quite a lot of backlog of things to write about during that time (Plus Mad Men starting up soonish) ought to get things busier around here soon.

Speaking of catching up, as I got my new shipment of comics recently we've got double-shots to cover. . .

BATWOMAN #5 and 6--Erm. This book is beautiful to look at and I am still enjoying it (though I'm sad that Amy Reeder is already gone--Trevor McCarthy's not a bad replacement, but I enjoyed that Reeder has graphic ideas that are similar and yet very different than J.H. Williams' art)

However, this book has storytelling issues. namely, we've spent five issues kinda building up the Weeping Woman as a big threat, only not, and after hovering around for five issues, she gets dealt with rather perfunctorily and leads into . . .well, Batwoman joining the DEO and learning of the threat behind the Weeping Woman.

All of which is fine, I guess. But the problem is, the flow feels off. Events don't roll smoothly from A to B to C. The Weeping Woman pulls Alice (Batwoman's twin) out of her mind and there's a brief confrontation and then on to the next thing, though one thinks that there should have been a lot more time with that confrontation, as it had been a major part of "Elegy" and the fallout from "Elegy" has been driving the book ever since.

But now we're on the DEO stuff and Batwoman is apparently going to be pursuing a group called Medusa (not to be confused with Checkmate, Hydra, Kobra, Skull, The 100, the 1000, the 2000 Committee or any of the other myriad secret organisations I've forgot or am otherwise too lazy to put in here) Couple this with the fact that the whole Flamebird stuff, having served it's purpose is pretty much put on the back burner (really, Batwoman's not all that bugged it seems about her sidekick getting nearly murdered) and. . .well, you hate to use the word "fridged," but . . .

In any event, we'll see how it goes from here. For the moment though, we're six issues in and it really feels like they threw the ball to home, but missed the tag somehow.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #5 and 6--But Batwoman's problems are not a patch on this book. Hoo boy.

People have compared Justice League to a comic book that you would get with an action figure, but these people are wrong, because comics you get with action figures are so much better than this turned out to be. Having run out of characters to do the "character shows up and acts like an asshole, kills parademons, yells at others," Geoff Johns decides instead to go all experimental and write a comic so thin on plot, it makes a Bazooka Joe comic seem as dense as Watchmen.

Seriously, stuff happens with random and frightening precision. Batman lectures Green Lantern on teamwork and tells GL to stand up and be a leader, and for some reason needs to reveal his identity to him to persuade him (why I'm not really sure) Green Lantern immediately screws this up and they go beat on Darkseid some more. Darkseid doesn't really do much (he hardly moves like, three feet in two issues time) Cyborg . . .literally shows up (which is not unlike what he does in Justice League: Doom, but we'll get to that one soon enough) and ultimately, random stuff happens and the day is saved because six issues is long enough for this stuff.

This book is utterly baffling, and it shouldn't be. Even at his worst, Geoff Johns was never this muddled before (and that one guy shouting "You're the world's greatest superhumans" should never be forgotten as one of the most tin-eared line in any comic ever) and Jim Lee's usually been pretty reliable to make his action, if not logical, at least somewhat dynamic, fills page after page with confusing poses and "action" that feels hatefully static. I know Wild C.A.T.S. was no great shakes in terms of stories, but art-wise, one could always depend on Lee to do dynamic and cool-looking images. That's one of the reason he still has cachet after twenty years, after all.

But here (and to be fair, also in All-Star Batman & Robin) everything's scratchy, clumsy and . . .kinda bland, which only draws your mind that much more to the book's logical failings and generally lets it down in a way it can't afford to, being the keystone book of the DC relaunch and the entry point for the new continuity.

On both fronts, it really falls down.