DC Comics Relaunch: Today is the Day.

Today is the Alpha and Omega for the DC Universe.
Today DC comics will release Flashpoint #5 which is basically while taking place in a altered timeline marks the end of the mainstream DCU that has been in existence since the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985.
Today also sees the release of Justice League #1 which users in what many are calling the DCnU.
I won’t be picking up my new books until later this week so I will not really have a solid opinion on anything until then. If I am truly honest I will give the new books until November to really pass judgment.
Here is what I do know. DC reports that they have orders for over 200,000 copies of Action Comics #1. That is easily doubling what they were previously.
My friend Aron, who runs The Dreaming Comic and Games here in Seattle, tells me his in-store numbers are up. People are really interested in what is happening and this is bringing people back who gave up or coming in for the first time. This was exactly what DC has said they were shooting for. For now Aron agrees.
His exact quote “This makes him both excited and nervous.”
He is excited because he is getting the increased sales and traffic in the store.  He is nervous because until we see how the books are received there is no way to know if these numbers can be sustained.
Well we will know soon enough. Once I actually get the books and have a chance to read them I will give you my thoughts.
And of course I wait with anticipation on how Marvel will try to make a veiled copy of all of this.

Review: Heartless by Gail Carriger.

Heartless is the fourth book in the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger. As stated in my previous overview of the series the story is a blend of Steampunk, Supernatural, romance and Victorian manners.
The fourth book finds are heroine Alexia Maccon near the end of her pregnancy. As a woman of action Alexia finds herself unsuited to being pregnant, going so far as to refer to the baby as the “infant inconvenience.”  Adding to the complications is the constant attempts by the vampires of London to have her killed out of fear that the child of a werewolf and a soulless woman will be a major threat to them.
To end this there is a compromise made. Alexia’s vampire friend Lord Akeldama will adopt the child thus dampening the other vampires’ fears. This leads Alexia and her Husband, werewolf alpha Lord Conall Maccon to move in next door to Akeldama.
And this is when the mad ghost appears claiming there is a plot against the queen.
If you are not already a fan of the Parasol Protectorate this is not a good jumping on point. The book assumes that you are familiar with events from the previous books. However this is true of most continuing series these days.
If you are a fan of the series it is a great continuation of the story. The author does not let the status quo of the series impede her story and the development of the characters. Most of the reoccurring characters get their individual story arcs developed further.
Alexia is shown dealing with her pregnancy while still fulfilling her duty as a member of the queen’s shadow council. We also see some of the inherent drawbacks to her soulless nature. Lacking in instincts and intuition she has to depend on her intelligence and pragmatism. We are shown this is not always a good thing.
Biffy, Lord Akeldama’s former drone and lover, was made a werewolf in the last book to save his life. Having wished to become a vampire we see his struggle with his new nature.
We learn much more about the back story of Werewolf beta Professor Lyall and how far he will go to protect the pact.
And of course there is intrigue with the mysterious French inventor and hat shop owner Madame Lefoux.
If there is a fault with the book it is that there are a lot of plates spinning at once. Of course being an ongoing series that does appear to be the norm these days.
As a fan of the series I was very pleased with it as a continuation of the story. And it ends in a way that makes me want to read Timeless when it comes out.

Superhero Movies. What works, what doesn’t

After a week delay my wife and I finally got around to seeing Captain America: The First Avenger. The movie sits in an interesting position. While it can certainly be looked at and enjoyed as a stand-alone movie, it is the fifth movie in the Marvel Universe franchise (Preceded in order by Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor). 

Like all superhero movies it has a balancing act to perform. It has to appease the long term comic fans well versed in the history and mythology of the characters, like me. At the same time it has to appeal to the general movie going audience who are not even sure which characters belong to which company, like my wife.
Thankfully Captain America pulls this off.
Sadly Green Lantern earlier in the summer did not.
But why? How do you make an engaging movie out of decades old characters that brings in both these audiences?
Looking at these two movies there are some points that may hold the clues.
Both movies hold true to the comic book origins of the characters. Their powers and supporting cast are basically translated straight across from 4 color to film.
So let’s look at two areas where they differ.
First off is story.
Green Lantern was basically a paint by numbers Hero’s Journey.
1.       The hero is called.
2.       He refuses the call.
3.       He picks up the call again.  
4.       He faces evil and is defeated.
5.       He goes through a time of doubt.
6.       He makes a leap of faith.
7.       He faces evil again and is triumphant.
 It’s a plot structure everyone knows and many early superheroes used. This unfortunately makes the story predictable and thus not as engaging.
Captain America, while a heroic tale, was not the standard hero’s journey. Steve did not have to be called. He wanted to serve and had to struggle for the chance, not once, but several times. Not once did he refuse to face the challenge, even during a time of doubt and pain. The story was not as predictable and thus was able to better engage.
Next we have our leads, Ryan Reynolds and Chris Evans. Both actors are known for playing cocky characters that spout one-liners. The characters they are playing are traditionally serious men who have a job to do and don’t rarely make wise ass remarks
Green Lantern Hal Jordan is a stock Ryan Reynolds character. Cracking wise, sleeping around, and taking nothing seriously.
Captain America Steve Rodgers is a sincere soldier who wants to do the right thing, a major departure from the characters Evans usually plays.
So what do we take from this.
With Green Lantern it looks like Warner Brothers wanted to formulaic summer block buster that happened to be based on one of the comic book characters they own.
With Captain America it appears that Marvel Studios wanted to make a movie that was worthy of the characters history and bring new fans into the fold.
Marvel does have one other advantage that I have brought up before. They are creating a common continuity for their movies, just like the comics. This allows them to build up momentum over several films in a relatively short amount of time. Right now Warner Brothers and DC do not appear to be going in that direction so every film has to build its own momentum.
Time will tell if both stay there courses.