VFCast Season 3 Episode 18: Ed Brubaker vs, Italian Cinema, Fight!

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Fatale might be more than Leland and I gave it credit for. Perhaps it is an examination of evil. It is just possible that in each chapter the kind of evil Brubaker is examining becomes more abstract, less driven by understandable human desires. By the last act we have an evil that totally sublimates human reasoning, replacing them with elemental evil.

I often think that when others like something more than we do that we are missing something, not catching a key part of the book. Perhaps we missed some subtle joke, some intense moment of character exposition, some dark sorcery driving the whole book from “good” to “great.”

Perhaps we are just bastards who hate fun. Who knows?

The music for this episode of Vestrymen from the Future! is used under a Creative Commons licence. This week, we feature Youth Avoiders – “ Run”, and Crown the Invisible – “The Spaniard that Blighted My Life”. Intro music is “Action Figure” used by permission from Masai.

A hot mess

My favorite comics blog calls the current age of comics the Platinum Age. Scipio is not wrong, not but I think it is clear that there is more going in the current age of comics than he has accounted for. It is fair to note that it has been four years since he wrote the linked piece and the landscape has changed significantly. Who wants to be fair really?. I’d rather 328936-118779-justice-league-of-am_superwrite about where the industry is today.

The New 52, Marvel Now, and The Avengers move have all come out since 2009, proving Scripo’s analysis of the superhero genre is on the nose.  Superhero comics are currently in something that would fairly be called “The Platinum Age.”

Something interesting is happening around the edges, though. Comic books have broadened themselves out again. The comics code authority’s rise in the mid 50s ended horror, noir crime and any sexually explicit comics. Starting in the 80s we saw some of these genres returning to publication, but to me, looking back, many of those works feel juvenile; like a 15-year-old trying so hard to prove they could be an adult. At their worst The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen feel like shock media, though never for long, and 250px-Youngblood_01_covernever in the same way The Youngbloods do.

I just interrupted my reading of Ed Bubaker and Sean Phillips moody Fatale to write this. We read and loved Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth Stumptown recently. Though neither Leland or I love Multiple Warheads or Saga as much as the zeitgeist seems to they are works of substance and value. Fantasy comics, which have always had a slow, reliable market seem to be bursting out of their corner with Mice Templar and Amethyst. Soft and hard sci-fi comics litter the shelves, from a surprisingly good Star Wars title to the delightfuly whimsical Lost Vegas. Valliant comics is insuring that the Dark Age is forgotten, publishing a grip of well reviewed anti-heroes.

Though Scripo’s analysis is shiny, it is important to include the revitalization of neglected and abandoned genres that is a part of today’s landscape. Today’s creators throwing together the gold, silver, bronze, iron, platinum, and the metals forgotten between the ages, churning them together, distilling their mistakes, their creative brilliance, and their pure joy to create something new. The current age of comics is pushing at the edges of what you expect, forcing us to consider what is possible, what it means to be a creator, a reader, a fan, or an admirer. It is an exciting time to be a part of the comic book industry, even only as a fan and commenter in the Age of Alloys.

VFCast Season 3 Episode 16: Huge UnChanges to the Status Quo!

NAZI robots! Cap with Thor’s Hammer. That one dude from Broxton being awesome! The UnDeReCaptaining of Steve Rogers! All this and more!

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Say what you will about Fear Itself, and Leland and I have tons to say in this podcast, but we both left the book with more smiles to be counted to our lives than when we came. As I am writing this a second round of explosions is going off in and/or near Boston. I am actually really happy that we read this book this week. It feels like emotional armor against the onslaught of tragedy and pain. Fraction’s message of optimism, hope, brave leadership, and a dedicated populace is helping to shape how I view the current tragedies. I go to sleep tonight, just about midnight on 4/18/2013 thinking of my friends in Boston and praying they are all safe. I hope that our leaders and first responders are efficient, effective and safe. Somewhere out there I hope that a first responder, or someone from Boston has the same response to this book as I do. I hope it helps…

The music for this episode of Vestrymen from the Future! is used under a Creative Commons licence. This week, we feature Gillicuddy – “Thinking of You”, and Karsten Pflum – “Coil Up Swedish Pony Riding”. Intro music is “Action Figure” used by permission from Masai Andrews.

Police Procedurals and Why They Make Awesome COMICS

So Lee and I have been watching lots of Bones. Its a good show with lots of SCIENCE! and interesting and dynamic characters. Its a great police procedural full of pathos drama, interesting turns and great character moments and development. Because I have a comic podcast and comic blog I often try to connect what is happening in my everyday life to comics. This has lead me to think about good police procedurals in comics. There is no reason comics can’t do these kinds of stories well, and they have.

Gotham Central

What It Is

We’ve talked about Gotham Central before. Its a GREAT procedural. There are stories about evidence gathering, people’s hidden natures, canvassing for witnesses,  and interdepartmental politics. Also every once and a while Batman shows up and glares at people until they give him what he wants.

Why it works

Gotham Central reads a lot like the more intimate cop shows on TV. It gets close to its characters, but never too close. We are always following professionals, and their stories would not be out of place in a Nolan film in terms of their focus on their jobs above all else. By letting cops and cop work be the center of the stories he tells Brubaker gets to play a coy game of hide and seek with the oddness of the DC Universe that his beat cops inhabit. Often its easy to forget that these cops are doing anything besides run down normal leads. And then all of the sudden, out of no where, suddenly Firefly’s suit is shooting at our cops, and Batman is fighting the stranger in it. It manages to deal with huge changes in tone, not by trying to escape the tension, but by embracing it. The brutal changes in tone let us get nice character moments, letting Brubaker and Rucka put extreme and sudden stress on their characters without upsetting the world they live in.

Where it runs into problems

Gotham Central balances on a razors edge between the extreme humanness of Brubaker’s characters and the oddness of the supehero genre that this book exists. When it tips too far one way or another it looses a ton of its magic. Like Brubaker’s lesser works it becomes predictable, uninteresting, and without any emotional hook. Instead of telling a paint-by-numbers superhero story, our friend Ed, tells a paint by numbers Law and Order plot.  In fairness the problem is with the setting and the the shared genre conventions more than with the genre as a whole.

Daredevil, the ed Brubaker run

I’d forgotten that the super-procedural run on Daredevil was written by Ed Brubaker. Had I payed more attention at the beginning of this post I could have just called it, “Brubaker: Law and Order: Superhero Version.”

Why it works

This specific Daredevil run features the Man in Red as a supporting character to Matt Murdock and the Murdock law offices. All the supporting characters are members of Nelson & Murdock’s legal team and most stories are focused on some sort of legal battle. Murdock mostly puts on his tights to give the defense a little illegal boost here and there. The plots are tightly and interestingly conceived, the writing is spot on, and the characters are interesting, conflicted and fully fleshed out. Its a great read.

When it doesn’t

Near the end of this run, leading up to the Shadowland event all the interesting legal and character work gets left behind in the face an event neither conceived or penned by the Bru. The whole event is muddled, overwritten and just plain unfun. It takes Daredevil in a direction that undersells his strengths and is an almost exact rehash of a story told just 30 issues ago. Again, the conceit of a superhero inspired procedural works really well when the book is allowed to pull equally from both sides of its heritage. When either becomes too dominant the books loose their charm.

Closing thoughts

I’d really like to track down some of this work that is no indebted to the massively interesting and creative mind of Mr. Brubaker and see how they read. He is the unchallenged master of the sub-genre at this point, but it would be nice to see someone else give themselves a shot. Still I loved both books and I hope to see more like them.