particle surge

the weblog of adrian j. watts

Adventures of Superman #497

advsuperman497coverWriter: Jerry Ordway
Penciler: Tom Grummett
Publisher: DC Comics


I am a huge fan of Tom Grummett’s pencils, and clearly other people must be too, hence his top-billing here; I’ve very rarely seen a penciler credited before a writer. I only discovered Grummett in the 21st century – I had no idea he was penciling this long ago.

The battle with Doomsday has started to get really serious here, but there was something weird about it all. If this had been the first Superman story I had read, I might not think he was a monster; but having already read a few, and having formed that view, his appearance here just cemented it.

In Superman #74, we saw Superman consciously ignoring cries for help so he could go pursue Doomsday – just the latest in a bunch of dickish moves from the so-called “hero”. Here, we see him think that one of the other Justice League members might have been able to help, which is why he ignored the cries. Bull. Shit. We also see him chastise Maxima for putting other people in danger – this, from the guy I saw likely murder a defenceless person in Man of Steel #18? I’m not buying it, Superman… unless… does he just put up that facade when there are other heroes around? He ignored the teen boy when he thought he was the only superhuman around. He possible murdered the other guy when there was no-one else around. That’s somehow even worse! If he was just upfront about being a monster, that’s one thing, but presenting another side to the JLA… hiding it… oh my gosh.

I was over the moon when I saw Guardian ask Superman if all the destruction was necessary. Even though Maxima had caused most of it, Guardian knew that Superman is the guy who should apparently know better. I’m with you, Guardian. Maxima’s clearly a bit bloodthirsty; Superman is the guy who wants you to think he’s civilised. I’ve no idea who Guardian is, but with the possible exception of the Blue Beetle, he’s the first guy who hasn’t shown himself to be a dick so far. I might look into him and read some more of his adventures.

I’ve noticed that with each issue in the storyline, Doomsday’s suit takes further damage, revealing a more monstrous figure. Mike Carlin needs a lot of props as editor. He’s not just getting his creators to do a coherent story overall; even the micro-details in the art and writing are holding up.

This has been, without a doubt, the most solid issue in the Doomsday story arc so far. The writing was fabulous and tight, as was the penciling. Well done, Ordway and Grummett!

Superman #74

superman-v2-74coverWriter: Dan Jurgens
Penciler: Dan Jurgens
Publisher: DC Comics

Oh my gosh.

This is the third comic I have read featuring Superman. When reading the first two, I was struck by what a monster he was. He was vicious, aggressive, mean and far too powerful for me to feel comfortable around him even if he wasn’t so vicious and clearly evil. I mean… in Man of Steel #18 the guy subdued an enemy, got the information he wanted and then likely murdered him. Someone needs to stop him!

In this issue, I felt that I had been deliberately led down that path. In this issue we see Superman punched through a house, and despite him seeing his teammate Ice unconscious in the house, despite the very serious, immediate threat to the woman, baby and boy living in the house, all Superman thinks about is how he’s never been punched that hard before. At the end of the issue, as Superman pursues Doomsday, he hears the boy urgently calling to him for help – and chooses, deliberately, to block it out so he can go after Doomsday. He has a weak attempt at internally rationalising it, but I have a feeling that’s for our benefit.

I would feel a lot safer, if I lived in the DCU, if Superman wasn’t around. But, as I said, I’m starting to think that Dan Jurgens wants me to feel that way.

Also? I like that Bloodwynd had time to say “My eye beams!” but not enough time to turn them off before they almost killed some innocent people. Sigh.

This story is getting very exciting very quickly, but seriously, Superman is a monster who must be stopped. He’s barely less obvious than Doomsday.

Justice League America #69

jla69coverWriter: Dan Jurgens
Penciler: Dan Jurgens
Publisher: DC Comics

Another DC issue leaving me really confused!

This issue did a marvelous job, creating a really chilling effect as it showed Superman being interviewed on TV, at a high school, with kids asking some pretty trivial questions (but Superman doing a good job of making the answers worthwhile). Meanwhile, the Justice League set out in search of, and found, Doomsday – who promptly kicked their butts.

Really scary stuff, seeing Superman doing mundane, trivial stuff while his friends are almost killed.

But there’s the problem – they’re only almost killed.

I don’t know most of these characters, or their powers, but in this issue we’ve seen Doomsday destroy two massive trucks without any effort, and throw a piece of wood at Blue Beetle’s ship so hard that it destroyed the ship in one blow.

But when Doomsday hits Guy Gardner so hard that his head is forced into the ground, Guy doesn’t even end up unconscious (he just has a black eye). Blue Beetle is beaten to a bloody pulp – but I’m not aware of any powers Blue Beetle has that make him super-resilient. Surely he’d break much more easily than a massive truck.

I’m sad to say that the story would have worked better if Doomsday had actually killed a couple of the weaker members of the Justice League, with the rest barely managing to survive until Superman arrives, and Superman then being killed as well. As it stands, it was very jarringly confusing.

Superman: Man of Steel #18

sm-mos-18coverWriter: Louise Simonson
Penciler: Jon Bogdanove
Publisher: DC Comics

Wow. Superman is one heck of a bully.

I haven’t had a huge deal of exposure to DC, and to Superman in particular. I’ve read some JLA issues where he’s a member, and some special-event DC comics, but generally what I have read on DC has focused on Robin or Batman, or occasionally the Flash. I believe this is the first issue featuring Superman as a solo issue that I’ve read.

And Captain America’s observations of the DC heroes in JLA/Avengers is quite right: they’re a bunch of bullying thugs.

Superman literally shoves a hand grenade down his enemy’s throat. Then he captures a guy, and after the guy divulges his information, Superman pounds him up to the neck into the rock floor. I find that last bit really bizarre; surely the force needed to get the guy into the floor would actually kill him first? Is Superman… a murderer?

I really, truly am stunned by how aggressive and nasty he is. His enemies must routinely die. There’s no other possible outcome of this behaviour.

Superman, it shouldn’t need to be said, is therefore not a hero I can stand behind.

Which makes this story arc even better. You might have been wondering why my first solo Superman adventure was so random; it’s because I’m reading the Death of Superman arc, which begins here. I’m kinda excited now to see Doomsday take down the Man of Steel.

Seriously, how does the average citizen in the DC Universe sleep at night, knowing guys like Superman are out there? It’s beyond disturbing.

As always, Louise Simonson does an amazing job. As much as I can’t stand Superman here, I’d still be tempted to read the series from #1 if they were available as TPBs, purely because of Simonson’s involvement. She writes a bad character very well. I don’t know if I’d hate him as much if someone else was writing it.

This was not a good introduction to Jon Bogdanove for me, though. His proportions are all messed up, and since this issue features some underground monsters, I can’t always tell which ones are intentionally monstrous and which characters are supposed to be normal humans. One guy who I thought was some sort of pinhead monster explicitly said he wasn’t a monster, so… yep. Confused.

Shin Gojira (2016)

shingojira2016Screenplay by: Anno Hideaki
Directed by: Anno Hideaki & Higuchi Shinji

It is hard to know what to make of this film.

It doesn’t help that I am automatically biased against continuity reboots – unless there is an in-continuity story to justify it. For example, I’m okay with the Star Trek reboot, with Spock actually traveling back in time and causing the reboot. Similarly, the “reboot” with the Particle Surge Productions characters being relaunched at Artifice Comics… it makes sense, as something happens in a story that causes the “reboot”.

Here, we are just rebooting for rebooting’s sake. There’s no reason why this couldn’t have taken place in existing Gojira continuity, except that the monster featured in it could not be Gojira. Really, a reboot so you can give the kaijuu the famous name?

I really didn’t like the premise of the film, frankly. Gojira here seems to me to be a metaphor for global warming, but really, he/it was a secondary issue. There is an utter lack of subtlety with the writer and director focusing on problems with Japanese bureaucracy. Heck, that problem emerged long before Gojira started rampaging across Japan. Halfway through the film I was almost ready to walk out due to sheer boredom and frustration with such a lame (and borderline offensive, as I support Japanese bureacracy) plot.

But then it seemed like someone found a cheque they didn’t realise they had, and everyone started letting loose. Gojira became an actual fearsome monster – I was almost trembling in my chair at some of the destruction he caused at certain points. And his nuclear breath… the best it has ever been done in any Gojira film so far.

So, really, the special effects were adequate, and once the plot got interesting, it really did get interesting. It just felt like the first half of the film could have been dropped, and the second half could benefit from a bit of redrafting. It is yet another example of the recent spate of films that qualify as “good first drafts”.

But I can’t end this without commenting on Kayoko Patterson. She was so horrendously cast that it was funny. She seems to feel detached from Japan, having been born and raised in the US as a third-generation migrant… but she can’t speak English very well, and she claims to have difficulty with Japanese. Sigh.

It is also really funny when characters do speak English and there are Japanese subtitles, as they often don’t match up.

Sigh. Really, Toho. You barely passed this time. Back to the drawing board, perhaps.

A Classical Education by Caroline Taggart

aclscleducWriter: Caroline Taggart
Publisher: Michael O’Mara Books
ISBN: 978-1-7824-3010-0

I have mixed feelings about this book.

On one hand, it is full of interesting content. It gives information about many aspects of classical Greek and Roman history, covering topics ranging from traditional history, to philosophy, to religion, to literature, to architecture, and beyond.

After reading this book you should be able to identify a range of gods, know the ancient Greek alphabet and be able to dazzle your friends with interesting trivia about Roman emperors and the origins of many scientific and mathematical concepts.

And if you like reading “classics” – not just the ancient classics, but really any work of “literature” written up until the mid-20th century – a lot of this is very, very handy background knowledge.

The thing is… I would imagine most people born before the 1990s would already know 90% of it.

My parents are of a vintage where, if you went to a private school, you learned all of this at school. So very little in this book would be new to my mother. (My father went to a public school, and his education focused more on vocational skills.)

Even so, I was born in 1984, and educated primarily at public schools… and very little of this was news to me.

Back in the 1990s, before everyone had the Internet, we learned what I like to consider “foundation skills” and “foundation knowledge”. These were fundamental skills and knowledge that everyone would learn, which could subsequently be applied to new topics. They’d build a framework for learning anything new that you encounter.

In the Internet era, this is all abandoned. You just learn something specific as you need it, rather than learning basic skills that can be applied to new situations. You don’t need those skills when the Internet will walk you through things step-by-step in seconds.

As part of those basic skills I learned 90% of what was in this book. It helped me to see how human understanding and knowledge has changed and developed over time, so that I can understand new, complex situations that challenge prior understandings. The tagline says it is the stuff you wish you’d been taught at school; not really. If you wanted to learn it, you are likely of the pre-1995 vintage who did learn it. If you’re young enough to have not learned it, you probably don’t want to anyway.

So, yeah, if you don’t know this stuff but are curious about it, this book is very handy, but my guess is that if you want to know this stuff, you probably already do.

Land of the Dead (2005)

lotdI finally started resuming my watch of the … of the Dead movies.

I had actually seen Land of the Dead twice before, and despite not liking it very much, I remembered a lot of little details. As a result, this time I just sort of half-paid attention throughout.

I didn’t like any of the characters. I didn’t like the story. I was a bit interested in the super-truck, but it was that like the ruined the film for me ultimately.

You see, whoever has the truck, has the power. We see this when it is stolen, and the thief threatens to blow up the safe buildings in the city. The thing is… why would the people who have the truck work for the dickheads running the city? Leave with the truck, stop getting them food, water, etc. until everyone is treated fairly.

It made no sense that people would semi-willingly live in the hellish slums at the bottom of the city when they were the ones who really had the power.

I did like that we were able to see a zombie who not just appeared to remember some things from life, but who was actually able to apply knowledge in new and creative ways (and that it was demonstrated other zombies could learn from him). It was very, very scary, and added a new twist to the franchise, although it still wasn’t nearly as scary as Dawn of the Dead or Day of the Dead.

I suppose this was a necessary step in the evolution of the series, but if it didn’t have Smart Zombie in it, it would be my least favourite by far.

Daredevil #3

dd03coverWriter: Charles Soule
Penciler: Ron Garney
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Ooh. That stuff from the cover of #2, that didn’t actually happen in that issue? It happened here.

So… Matt sucks a bit. He was wondering whether to help Tenfingers’ church fight the Hand, and it wasn’t until he’d almost forced them away that he began to think about the innocent, manipulated members. What else was he thinking about?

My immediate concern was for the rookie, Blindspot, and I’m glad to see Matt was worried about him as well. I’m perturbed by the fact that Blindspot was so readily able to handle himself against the Hand. It doesn’t fit well with the story so far, or Matt’s concern, and I don’t trust Soule enough yet to be sure it is an intentional part of the story.

Also: $20,000 for a basic emergency room visit, a few stitches for some deep-but-not-the-end-of-the-world cuts? America is fucked up.

Daredevil #2

dd02coverWriter: Charles Soule
Penciler: Ron Garney
Publisher: Marvel Comics

See that cover? That doesn’t happen in this issue. In fact, nothing remotely like it does.

Soule has actually surprised me with this issue. Things are starting to come together very quickly, and very neatly. I was quite disappointed to not get any explanation about how Daredevil managed to affect everyone’s memory – and I got a bit confused when the Manhattan District Attorney mentioned Matt needing to be readmitted to the bar. If he could erase the knowledge that he is Daredevil from people’s minds, surely he could erase anything that got him disbarred, right?

We won’t know until that event is explained.

I guessed about halfway through the issue, almost jokingly, that Tenfingers probably had a connection to the Hand. I was right. Tenfingers himself doesn’t seem to know about it, though. It was quite odd. Daredevil seemed to be explaining to Tenfingers what powers Tenfingers had, and where he stole them from – surely Tenfingers would already know that, having done it?

I don’t know. The story is getting interesting, but I keep ending up more confused than curious. This is better work than I thought Soule capable of, but it still has plenty of room for improvement.

Daredevil #1

dd01coverWriter: Charles Soule
Penciler: Ron Garney
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I really do like Ron Garney’s penciling. I always have. What I dislike here is the inking and colouring. We’ve been burdened with that style since part-way through the BENDIS! run on the title. The thing is, back then, it kinda worked. Now, though, it has become the go-to style of inking and colouring for any “dark” or “noir” story, even when it doesn’t go well with the penciling.

Just look at Frank D’Armata’s work on Avengers Disassembled, and the books he worked on immediately afterwards, for other examples of it really not working.

The problem with it here is that it literally makes things too dark. They may as well just draw silhouettes. In fact, that might even work better when we’re up close with Daredevil, given how his powers work.

I mainly picked up this title because I wanted to know who the sidekick is. A lot of people assumed it was Gambit, but I couldn’t see Remy playing second fiddle to Matt, so assumed it would be someone else. I am quite intrigued by this new character, who must be the fourth or fifth Marvel character to use the name Blindspot…

I didn’t like the rest of the plot, though. We learn from Foggy Nelson that Matt Murdock has somehow erased the knowledge that he is Daredevil from everyone’s mind, except his own and Foggy’s, intentionally. Foggy is mad about this.

We’ve seen this before. In one of the 1998 Annuals an arrogant, wealthy, smart guy erased the knowledge of his dual identities from the minds of everyone on Earth, but then chose a handful of people to reveal it to, and they weren’t happy about that. That was Tony Stark, with Captain America and some of the longest-serving Avengers being the unhappy folks.

For shame, Marvel, for rehashing that. But I kinda want to know how Matt did it. Stark had satellites. What did/does Matt have?

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