Tag Archives: comic book

Paper Girls: Volume 1 by Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang

Paper Girls Volume 1Generally when I pick up a new comic I have a fair idea what to expect. If it’s Marvel or DC that’s generally the usual superhero fare, while more indie comics will usually be recommended by friends or because there’s a movie or TV show based on it. 

Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s Paper Girls then is something a little different as I took a punt on it based on a combination of the cover art and it being recommended in a few different comic book stores, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Telling the story of four young girls who, while out on their paper round, get embroiled in a mystery apparently spanning time and space the series, which was launched in late 2015, lands firmly in the same kind of zeitgeist as Netflix’s Stranger Things.

Set in the late 1980s the style evokes this excellently and it treads the line of nostalgia and truth brilliantly while its small town America setting just adds to the 80s movie vibe, a little like a more adult The Goonies or slightly more juvenile Back To The Future or The Lost Boys but laced through with the same sense of down to earth grit in the lead characters as all of those.

Paper Girls and objectI don’t want to spoil things in the story too much but, as it goes on, the design of the mysterious, somewhat alien, characters who appear contain the right level of grotesque and scary to again fit this style and, like the best of those 80s movies it doesn’t shy away from getting a bit more graphic than you might initially expect.

Artistically, Chiang’s style is a great mix of simplicity and detail so we get an idea of the settings quickly and easily but with everything we need to know where we are and who the characters are without things becoming over complicated.

It also treads the line between realism and cartoon excellently with some very nice design flourishes in the more fantastic elements. In my experience this is often a highlight of the more independent end of comic books and Chiang is clearly a fine exponent of it.

Erin - Paper Girls

Erin

As a whole then Paper Girls is something of a joy combining a healthy mix of nostalgia and creativity to produce a comic book with a unique feel that captures a current spirit but has everything it should need to be a highlight of the medium for a long time to come.

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2

the amazing spider-man 2 posterWith the contractual obligation, basic, but enjoyable, Spider-Man reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man a couple of years ago, things seemed to be heading in a reasonable direction for the web slinger.

Certainly that film had its flaws but its focus on the relationship between Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), along with some new intrigue based on a slightly tweaked Spidey origin story made for an enjoyable watch.

In The Amazing Spider-Man 2 we start off in a reasonable place as, after a bit of a more in-depth look at what happened to Peter’s parents, we are dropped into the middle of a pretty well conceived chase through New York with police heading after a hijacked truck and Spider-Man joining in from above.

This does go a bit CG heavy in places (particularly as our hero juggles small orange phials of plutonium – surely it should be green?), but it gets the ball rolling pretty well as it sets up Peter’s clash between his life fighting crime and his life with Gwen.

Peter and Gwen

Peter and Gwen

What it also does is introduce us to Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) who is to become one of the films main problems, in a couple of senses.

The next portion of the film seemingly tries to pointlessly re-introduce us to everything the introduction has already re-established in terms of Peter’s relationships, whilealso setting up the film’s villain, comic book mainstay Electro, in one of the most convoluted super villain origins in a while, that never quite works.

Also introduced are Harry Osborn (Dane Dehaan) and his father Norman (who cameoed in the first movie) and the film tries to establish Harry and Peter as best friends in a way that never convinces, leading to some serious problems later on.

Then we get another big action scene in Times Square as Electro’s powers are introduced following some more relationship stuff between Peter and Gwen. While the first film handled this side of the story well, here the supposed emotion feels generic and empty and, while both actors do a decent job, they really don’t seem to have much to work with.

Electro

Electro

Another villain is introduced as things go on and we start to head in the same direction of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 as the movie becomes over burdened with super villain exposition to such a degree that any hope of coherence or emotional attachment is lost and it all falls into by the numbers crash-bang-wallop.

While, thankfully, there aren’t the three villains of Raimi’s movie and there’s no ‘evil-emo-Peter’ song and dance number to cope with, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 descends into a bad video game like mess in its supposedly climactic action sequences, that totally negates the potential emotion of the film’s denouement.

Peter and Harry

Peter and Harry

This climax, which must have had Empire Strikes Back levels of potential on paper, is also completely blown by the scenes that follow which seem entirely inserted to set up not one but two possible sequels (I’m assuming The Amazing Spider-Man 3 and The Sinister Six… who knows what happened to 1 to 5).

These scenes may have worked, condensed, as a mid and post-credits sting, but, in the main body of the movie, just feel like a cop-out ending that is, in one case, the equivalent of hitting the ‘Reset’ on a SNES or Mega Drive.

While it could be argued there is a good film somewhere in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 it is, unfortunately, buried in a layer of extraneous villains, product placement and sequel bait, that leaves the whole thing feeling messy and generally incoherent which, in a climate of Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Solider, just doesn’t cut it.

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Watchmen: Director’s Cut

Watchmen PosterHaving seen the theatrical cut of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen several times I thought it time I investigate the Director’s Cut version of the movie – not the Ultimate Cut which adds another 26 minutes on top of the 186 minute version I’m discussing here.

As the film that must have been a major contributory factor in Snyder landing the job of directing Man of Steel it is odd quite how different the two films are, for films based on comic book origins.

While Man of Steel predominantly tries to place its super-characters in a ‘real’ world, from the start Watchmen, taking its cue from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons tour-de-force comic, is very much set in a stylised world of mid-80s America where Nixon is still president and super heroes are real, and it is here that the film finds one of its major triumphs.

watchmen on setIn both the plot of the film and the visual style we are one step away from reality and it is this that makes the film work quite so well so that, as well as being a great action movie, it is also able to do the thing that sci-fi does best of reflecting our reality back at us and commenting on it. Ok, so the comic was better placed and poised to include social and political commentary, but, considering when the film was originally released, in 2009 as tensions surrounding Afghanistan, Iraq and terrorism were still major issues, it still has something to say on this, albeit through a slight extra prism, but I am glad they didn’t try and bring the film up to modern-day and stuck with the mid-80s.

Watchmen - ComedianVisually the film does a lot to mirror the comics and, while in some movies this seems to lumber them with static moments, Snyder seems to have the feel for this just right so we get the feel of the same New York created by Moore and Gibbons, but with a few updates in terms of costume and such that make it a modern motion picture.

The action too reflects this and gives some great, if occasionally extreme, fight scenes and larger set pieces that really satisfy like very few in modern cinema, particularly in the comic book movie genre which has become somewhat stale over the past year or so.

Watchmen - Night Owl and Silk SpectreIn terms of the director’s cut element here what we get is largely extended scenes and extra character moments that just fill in a few blanks from the original that you wouldn’t notice unless you saw this version, so in that regard it is unessential.

However, we also get a few extra moments of world building and mystery building (particularly regarding one of the ‘heroes’) that do add a little extra, particularly for fans of the comic. The Ultimate Edition combines the Tales of the Black Freighter animation with the film (like the comic book comes into the original source) but I find it hard to see how it would work in such an effective way in the film as it does in the comic so, in a way, I am glad that wasn’t included here.

The WatchmenWhile Watchmen seems to have been somewhat lost in the shuffle of Batmen, Avengers and Supermen, on reflection, it stands above all of them as a film that really does get what it’s doing and combines the aesthetic of its source material with being a movie and while Snyder’s Superman may have missed the mark, here he more than shows that he gets this genre, possibly more than the producers behind the scenes.

And simply beacuse I love them and love this song, here’s My Chemical Romance’s version of Desolation Row from the movie’s soundtrack:

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