Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Venom: Cirlce of Four - Final Thoughts

I really don't want to cover this again, but I did promise I would.

So let's just get to the down and dirty of it. There are several problems within the story that may need to be covered in the future. Essentially these are plot holes big enough for the spidey-mobile to drive through, but there were some fantastic highlights from this event too.

So let's get this out of the way already.

1. They all died.
Did they really? I mean they were in hell already, so what's the difference between being in hell and being in Mephisto's hell? How does that exactly work? For that matter, not all of them did die. X-23 in particular was plummeting into hell below when her nightmare began and it's only left to assumptions that her body went splat in Mephisto's realm off panel. Which again means her body was already in hell before she died. So did she really die? Or is this just a trick by Mephisto to make them all agree to a deal they didn't need? What was the explanation for Alejandre's death? How did the Venom symbiote die?

2. What happened to Ichor and the X-23/Toxin clones?
He just kind of slinked off his host body and disappeared. Never was completely defeated but was also never mentioned again. The same can be said for the X-23 clones that were merged with samples of the Toxin symbiote. They had some brief snippets but then were thrown to the background and never heard from again. No resolution given for either of these elements, nor any real exposition on the hyper aging process used on these clones. They're just gone. Leaves me personally hoping we might see Ichor in the future hopefully with taking one of them over, but we're left with no foreshadowing on any of it.

3. X-23's Claws.
Why didn't she notice the lack of healing factor in hell when she popped her claws? They do cut her skin every time they are used, yet this detail went by unnoticed and unmentioned, nor did her hands bleed any time she used them.

4. The Anti-thesis mirror doesn't effect symbiotes?
Flash Thompson got his reflection, as did Zarathos per se, but Alejandre and the Venom symbiote were seemingly skipped even though they were looking into the mirror too. Okay, maybe we can let Alejandre slide as she's seemingly merged with Zarathos and their souls interwoven, but Venom still seems somewhat odd. Especially considering the final battle and how it was used by Red Hulk.

Now for the highlights.

1. X-666's Demise
This character annoyed me to no end. Not because of her dialogue but because just how lame the concept in general was. That's what made her final moments all the more satisfying though with how she was dispatched. It was simple, comedic, and just all around quite fitting to have her be crushed under Red Hulk's heel. Made a great throwback to the end of the Hulk vs Wolverine animated movie too. That final scene with Deadpool near the credits.

2. Ghost rider Red Hulk Venom
What can I say? I'm a sucker for combined heroes and epic costumes. "Smash for Vengence" just made it all the more delicious. It almost makes the entire run worth it, but I wish we had more of it to really enjoy. It was a nice tease of potential future events if there is a follow up to circle of four.

3. Venom pulling a Deadpool/Spider-man impression.
Okay this was pretty sweet. Venom taking on 2 of the anti-thesis by himself and using them to defeat themselves in what was borderline a pure Deadpool or Spider-man moment of trash talking and quick thinking. Excellent usage of the Evangelist's 'good book' to cut down the Brain and also prove Flash can handle himself and his addictions if albeit briefly. It was one of two great shining moments for Flash Thompson in this story.

4. Coming Full Circle with the Anti-thesis mirror.
In what was a slightly unexpected move though really shouldn't have been, the story comes full circle with how it began. Using the mirror to defeat Blackheart was both fitting and predictable if not for the fact the story throws so much at you in every direction with massive amounts of confusion. Normally you would see something like this coming. Since it uses so much misdirection throughout the story this comes back around and becomes a pleasant and satisfying surprise. It makes this entire story come full circle to a close.

So here's a 4x4 response to what worked and what was just outright weird about Circle of Four. It's worth checking out in trade form, but the single issues might be something worth skipping unless in the future they expand on elements that fell to the wayside forgotten. There are many questionable characterization spots too, but a lot of that can be forgiven for how hurriedly this may have been thrown together and the kind of disarray that can happen when three writers are thrust into doing different chunks of a story without working entirely hand in hand to keep the details fluid and organic. It has elements that are ripe for usage later to expand on, but overall the first two thirds of the story are mostly yawn inducing while the last third attempts to salvage it all into one united story with classic comic throwbacks.

What are your final thoughts on this event?

Astonishing X-Men Issue 48

So X-23's ongoing has come to a close for now, but the wheels keep spinning at Marvel and creators continue on to new titles. Marjorie Liu who scribed the X-23 ongoing has moved on to Astonishing X-Men and this is her first issue.

I hadn't planned on covering this at all since it's outside the character focus for here, but occasionally I do like to spotlight great comics anyway. That's exactly what this is if you're a Gambit fan, or a Northstar fan, among many others from the Jean Grey School. In particular though that made me want to bring this comic up and push it was a small injoke reference Marjorie Liu managed to work in with Gambit. Cecilia Reyes visits him and they talk about his need to get away from being role models for teenagers. During this entire scene the panels play up a reference to the X-23 ongoing with Gambit having a picture of him and X-23 which stops Cecelia mid-speech and makes her change the subject as the burgeoning realization of why Gambit does what he does and why it matters, why he goes back to help these kids day in and day out. It's quite a great comedic moment that gives fans of the X-23 ongoing a great throwback and tells them that run of comics mattered. That it won't be forgotten. It's a fantastic throwback to the Chaos Theory story arc in X-23's ongoing that besides the Future Foundation also featured Cecilia Reyes mending Gambit's wounds.

For now, from interviews we've heard, it seems that X-23 won't be making an appearance in Astonishing X-Men any time soon. One can always hold out hope we might see some future team-ups between Gambit and X-23 in the far future during one of X-23's roadtrips away from Avengers Academy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Feeding Frenzy: March Madness

Just some random newsbites from all over and a few comments concerning Marvel's recent interviews.

So let's start off with the interesting non-Marvel news.

This is Nottingham has an interesting article up about their local UK comic shop that claims to have more female customers than male. Special thanks to Bleeding cool for making me aware of this article.

Okay now onto the Marvel news bites...

CBR has an interview up with Marvel's David Gabriel. In their typical soft interview style they let him slide on a few points that should have been expanded upon that come across as hype speak and lies by omission. That's fine. I've come to expect it when they deal with Marvel. Sometimes you have to "play nice" so you keep getting interviews. That's just part of dealing in corporate cirlces. It's interesting in how it talks about generating buzz for comics, and yet this is one thing X-23 herself had rarely gotten. It's as if Marvel wanted it to fail after the first issue. Which is rather weird considering she did stay above the 20k threshold while other comics that didn't were given the chance to wrap up and even double ship this month. I'll toss it into the pile of weird happenings around that comic like the page count shift on her final issue from 32 to 22, and the numbering goof on an early solicit for the premium hardcover, certain editor demeaning comments about the sales that didn't match the numbers, along with other bits I'm saving for later. Potentially X-23's numbers could have been bolstered with a bit more marketing. Even without that, it's numbers were already set to start growing as word of mouth was starting to pick up the longer the comic was still going. Word of mouth was getting more positive even though some outlets were starting to ignore giving it any exposure whatsoever outside of what they had to.

Over this past week there's been an interview with CB Cebulski with a follow up commentary from Kaare Andrews.

Here I take offense to an offhanded remark that wasn't intentional but shows what kind of judgements can happen when someone comments on a part of an industry they've never dabbled in fully.

Look, I’m sure it’s happened. But not with real artists. I’ve heard stories of hack artist complaining that he wasn’t drawing Wolverine in costume enough because those pages would be worth more money. But again, I have never had that conversation. I’m not fast because I care. I’m not fast because I want to do great work. I’m not fast because drawing comics is one of the most demanding artistic professions in the world. Ask an animation guy how much he draws in a week. Maybe one character sheet. Maybe. They get paid more, have better health insurance, and work less hours in a day. Same thing in movies. Same thing in video games. You don’t draw comics to cash in, you draw comics because you love comics. And this is from a guy who directs movies for half his days.

A character designer draws the character sheets. Animation itself is often outsourced for a reason, and those animators don't often get benefits abroad. Even locally it varies on the types of animation you're doing, but it doesn't compare to comics at all. It's much harder. Let's break this down for a second. Your typical animated episode is 24 minutes long at 30-60 frames per second. That's 86400 frames for an HD toon with a running time of 24 minutes at 60 frames per second. 43200 frames for a standard toon running at 30 frames per second. This is for handdrawn cell animation at least. Breaking it down for computer animation is even trickier as each effect has to be timed and calculated. Even if the animator is using key frames (which is the start and stop of individual motions for everything from breathing to knee bends, elbow bends fingers and more) it can become even more headache inducing. Yes CG is typically considered a cheaper and "easier" route but it's also not as easy as people often want to claim it is. So how animating within the confines of 43200-86400 frames equals to comic page rates and the amount of panels they do is up to you, but I doubt that comic artists have anywhere near that amount of volume to deal with within a 22 page or even 32 page comic. Including such digital art aids as Toon Boom Studio or Adobe products the workload on animation is much heavier than comics will ever be. That's just truth and we all tend to take that for granted with that medium.

As for working less in a day? Are you kidding? A character designer maybe unless they are still working on it while at home(which is true for any job that you keep working on while at home). As for animators? Hell no. They continue working as much as they can. CG artwork in particular can run close to 18 hour days and that's when you're grinding your nose to the ground on it to make it perfect until by the end of the project you're only running on fumes. It's the same as a page artist in that respect, they both want to make it because they love what they do so they invest more time into their work to reflect that. They have their slow days sure, but as do page artists. There are times when inbetween projects or after just wrapping a big project that stress relief is needed to keep one's sanity. It's that age old saying about the grass is always greener on the other side.

In other non-news and this is purely anecdotal, it's starting to come to my attention there are far more female artists out there than many companies would make you think there are. In my personal hobbyist ventures I've run into more and more extremely capable female artists and writers than seems reflected from most companies. A trend it looks like Bleeding Cool has picked up on as well with their current trend of trying to find female contributors. Speaking of which, we might be looking for some new blood for here in that respect too. Certain complications have arisen due to my action of censoring some remarks that had to do with a rather constant statement of "Occupy Marvel" in regards to X-23's ongoing being canceled. This has caused me to feel more and more like I'm banging my head on a wall somedays. Which I may end up caving on eventually or the wall breaking. I tend to paint a target on my back. Won't even deny that, but I'd rather not have friends get stuck in such issues when it can be avoided.

Also in other anecdotal news bites, there's been a growing demand from X-23 fans in wanting a feature film made of her. My personal thoughts on this is that I want it focused on her two origin minis, but it's growing more and more to the point that teenage girls are starting to go trick or treating as her for halloween more and getting stares of who are you supposed to be more often. The common consensus is a feature film would open the door more for recognizability, create more fans, and all around allow a wider recognition of the character. More on this soon. I'm still gathering quotes for that.

There's been other news lately about how to break into the industry, how much looks matter in the industry, and all around other more BS statements that seem to try and hide the fact that it's all centered on one aspect of the industry. Marketing. Let's look at one simple fact about fame. The fact recognizing a name generates buzz and any kind of press is good press. Some editors treat their fans disdainfully, create fake scandals, and all around act like jerks, but their name is getting out there. It's remembered. It's recognized. The reasons for why can be forgotten, but the recognition stays. These kinds of attitudes are rewarded. This is why the more colorful insulting employees of various companies stay employed. They are recognizable, while the quiet more respectful employees of theirs become harder and harder to remember the names of. It's also why I've become less likely to mention anyone that acts as such. If even by giving them bad press, I'm still giving them press and that bothers me. I'd rather they be left as footnotes in history and not plastered across screens inflating their ego even more. They thrive on the attention and ego stroking so why should I or anyone give it?

I'll gladly commend writers, artists and editors that go about their jobs borderline devoid of egotrips, have honor, and are thankful for what they are able to do. People like Brevoort, Dan Slott, Marjorie Liu, Chris Yost, Craig Kyle, Rick Remender, and many others the names escape me at the moment are the kinds of people you want to hear of doing well and getting more work. Not just because of their personalities and karma, but because they do great work. While the jerks of the industry outshine them more in name recognition because of their self-created scandals and borderline flagrant homophobia or frat boy attitudes from having their emotional growth stunted by their egos.

Then we've also got people trying to tell you that talent doesn't shine on its own. This isn't true either. It can, but it does take work. You need to get your work out there to let it shine. If this means finding your own path to do it then great. There have been many talented people out in the world who found a way to make their talents shine without having to compromise their creative intregrity like most would want you to do. Monty Oum found his path, the late great composer Reuben Kee had found his path, the late great Ed Gould had found his path. Sure, all 3 of these people would call the exceptions to the rule, but the list doesn't end with them. The people at Roosterteeth, MC Chris, and the list goes on and on and on. Talent does shine when you stick to creative integrity and pursue your goals how you want to do them. You just have to keep trying and find what your path is. It boils down to the media world not understanding the fact times are rapidly changing. The computer industry has known this forever, that any kid in garage could put them out of business at any time. It's time the media industry finally learned this too and got rid of old fashioned ways of handling affairs that are only holding them back.

Now all this isn't to say I hate the various media industries. I just feel many of them are broken. Maintaining the old status quo is causing fear of change. I've long since grown deaf to Marvel's complaints about the lack of Disney health insurance for this reason. I don't feel that's right, but on the same token there are many people in the various industries who do far more work and get much less for what they do. Some of them deal in other's creations like Marvel or DC does, and some of them deal in original creations. Satisfaction in life is about doing what you love though. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to reach those goals, but sometimes the sacrifices just aren't worth it.

As for breaking into various industries. It's all about reaching out. You might be surprised at the connections you can make or burn within a month. I don't like to comment on this for myself, but I've personally learned it's much easier to make connections than many think. It's just about reaching out no matter the odds and being hopeful. Outside of that, just try and find your own path for exposure to the general public. It's a slow process but when the work is great, it will move more and more.

More updates to follow soon, I promise. Things are just a bit hectic right now. I mostly just wanted to take the time to make my thoughts on the above animation comment known and all around give 'certain people' another rant to tear apart or use to complain about maintaining individuality and personal privacy in light of how the media industries currently work based on who has the biggest ego and who can manufacture a public persona for consumption.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Recap: X-23 v3 Issue 21 - The Final Issue

This issue marks the end of her run as an ongoing comic. Sadly it's only 22 pages. Within those 22 pages though it manages to say a lot without a single spoken word.

Going into this issue from the preview, I didn't know what to expect. The preview had me curious with the usage of a wolf pack and symbolism reflecting how X-23 herself is a lone wolf. There's a phrase pertaining to that about how a wolf is only as strong as the pack, but the pack is only as strong as the wolf. This plays up to an atmosphere of the choices she needed to make about where she belongs.

It's an issue that was quite well handled in how it was delivered. We have X-23 traveling to clear her head, helping a man make it home by giving him a ride, and the entire time there is a barrage of interesting camera angles and hidden symbolism of soaring like an eagle or hawk besides the aforementioned wolves. All around it evokes a sense of freedom while still making choices to help those who need it.

All this culminates into a form of spirit quest that makes her face her dark side head on. While her first instinct is to fight it, the answer becomes clear during the struggle allowing her to come to terms with it. She copes with it, accepting it but moving on as well.

It's all portrayed very primal and back to nature, but not in a chest beating alpha male way. It's handled in a more aboriginal or native american type fashion. It's a very inward reflection of self. A kind of fresh slate created from baring it all and finally coming to terms with one's self or one's past. A story that punctuates Laura's growth. It gives us a Laura Kinney who is naked to the world both literally and figuratively, but not in a sexually charged manner. The artwork by Phil Noto walks a fine line of that, and is beautifully interwoven in how the story is told to avoid that kind of focus and yet still yield an amazing and touching story so full of symbolism from even panel angle choices. I'm sure I've overlooked more details too. An issue that may be considered a quick read from not having a single spoken word, but every journey back through it yields something new. It's an issue you can repeatedly go through and let sink in, but still has undiscovered truths within. Quite simply, it's beautiful in an unprecedented and rare manner that few comics from the big two usually dare to attempt in this modern age.

All around I greatly enjoyed this issue. It makes me sad to see the comic run come to an end, but as endings go it is quite a fitting send off. Questions still remain, but that's for the future. This issue is one I'd recommend any and everyone (of appropriate age) to check out who has a familiarity with X-23. It's an issue of no words but says everything about why this comic should stay and how Marvel will not feel the same without it. Be sure to pick up your own copy today. It's more than worth the price.

Okay, a few more page throughs and I noticed an undertone that's hard to tell if it's intentional or not. It seems like a symbolic gesture or mildly suggestive of Marvel silencing X-23's comic by canceling it prematurely. That's probably something best saved for another day though as explaining would encompass too many topics about how fame works that are best left unsaid in this recap.

Monday, March 12, 2012

CoolToyReview Updates Photo Archive with Kotobukiya X-23

Cooltoyreview has recently updated their photo archive with the addition of the Kotobukiya Marvel Bishoujo Collection X-23.

It's being released this month and retails for 59.99 usd.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Preview: X-23 v3 Issue 21

X-23's final issue preview is up over at CBR.

X-23 v3 issue 21 will hit your local comic shops on March 14th.

This issue marks the end of X-23's ongoing but also celebrates the second year anniversary of Marjorie Liu writing the character. Her first X-23 issue was the X-23 v2 oneshot in March of 2010.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Avengers Academy Issue 27

This was a great issue for a comic that's quickly finding its footing again.

Sadly there were no X-23 appearances, but that was to be expected as the core team is interacting with the Runaways in this story. Gage had made comments before suggesting this would be the case as he didn't know at the time X-23's comic was getting canceled. We still might see something about her training with Black Widow, but that might have been an idea rationalized after the fact and too late to insert into this story. Not his fault on that either as the communication just wasn't there for him to be aware of that at the time.

Coming up after this arc will be AvX though. There we will have a larger focus on X-23 with her opinions on the X-Men and whether or not she would truly choose a side. There, it will hopefully dive into her thoughts about turning children into soldiers, and if the Avengers are making the right choice or just forcing her to be stuck in the middle between friends. Something I hope is punctuated with a usage of Mercury and their friendship, but also uses Surge and her hypocritical ways.

Venom issue 14: Circle of Four - The Finale

Not much to really say about this issue on the X-23 front.

It came back full circle with how they defeated Blackheart(amping up his power deliberately just to use that against him was quite inspired). The art side was deliberately hell influenced. All around there's not much here to dislike as finales go, but on the X-23 front it didn't really feel like anything to crow about or complain about either. A sequel follow up has been left in play with how this ended. One that could prove interesting moreso than this story, but more on that later.

Coming up in a few days, I'll try to throw a post together going over it all. What was great, what felt like ideas introduced just to be tossed aside, and what made the story itself come full circle in the final two issues.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Preview: Venom 14 and Avengers Academy 27

CBR has the previews up for comics that'll be hitting stands March 7th.

For X-23 fans, this includes the finale for Circle of Four in Venom issue 14, and the further adventures in Avengers Academy issue 27.

Avengers Academy will be doing a Runaways story until AvX. So it will be light on the X-23 front again. Potentially it could have Laura training with Black Widow. This may give Laura a chance to show her skills to Natasha, or this could be a chance for Natasha to show Laura how to channel her emotions better instead of letting them control her. It could prove interesting to have Black Widow help Laura channel that middle ground between emotionless tactical precision assassin that completes any objective and emotionally overreacting teenager with a complete disregard for her own well-being.