AISLE SEAT 2.0.77

AISLE SEAT 2.0.77: EXAMINING MAN OF STEEL


By Marc Mason

There’s been quite a bit of nerdrage over the last couple of weeks over MAN OF STEEL, the latest film incarnation of Kal-El of Krypton. What’s surprised me about most of it is that both sides manage to get things wrong as they rage for or against the movie. So I feel like it is instructive to point out a few things about the flick.

Number one, and most importantly: it is called MAN OF STEEL for a reason:

The character of Superman, as he has been generally known for his 75-year existence, does not appear in the film until the last ten minutes before the end credits.

Sure, Henry Cavill wears the suit, he’s got the background that we all recognize, but that doesn’t make him Superman. Even when one character refers to him as Superman two-thirds of the way through the film, he isn’t Superman yet. It takes the events of the last third of the movie to forge him into the character we all know as Superman. But until then, he isn’t there yet.

Number two, let’s talk killing. I’ve seen it repeated over and over, ad nauseum: Superman doesn’t kill. Okay, I’ll bite on that one, and as it plays out in this film, I think it still holds true: he doesn’t truly become Superman until he kills Zod and then understands the price of that action. You know right then and there that he will never take another life. What frosts my ass, though, is the myopia people have on this subject. The Chris Reeve Superman kills Zod in SUPERMAN II, and stands idly by while Lois kills Ursa. Reeve’s Superman also dumps Nuclear Man into a live reactor, killing him in SUPERMAN IV. So let’s not get self-righteous about Superman’s moral code, unless you’re willing to barbecue your sacred Reeve-flavored cow.

Number three, the property damage and potential loss of life. It’s extraordinary, and terrifying, and totally realistic for what might happen if these godlike beings fought in a major metropolitan area. The criticism I see is that Kal-El doesn’t do enough to alleviate this destruction. For that, I think we have to look at the timeline of the film.

He finds the Kryptonian scout ship and gets the suit, then discovers that he can fly. In fact, he can’t fly right away; he has to figure out how to maintain it as he tests himself. Then he returns to Kansas, meets Lois at his father’s grave, then visits his mom just in time to see Zod’s ship arrive. How much time does this series of events take? A couple of days, right? Then he gets a 24hr deadline from Zod and turns himself in at the end of it. So he has maybe known how to fly for four days. Maybe. So his control at this point is, frankly, not going to be great.

Now consider this: his entire life, Pa Kent has told Clark to keep his strength under wraps. The film openly shows us Clark continually repressing his rage, and not always doing a great job of it. But one thing for certain is that until the moment he escapes Zod’s ship and tracks him to the Kent family farm, he has never punched anyone in his entire life.

All that repressed rage, suddenly uncorked with no skill and no comprehension of what it can do, combined with a newfound ability he has had for less than a week. Imagine it.

So when people complain about his role in the destruction, all I can is note: he had no experience, no control, and no real idea of what he was doing. THE AVENGERS is about a collection of experienced, battle-tested heroes; MAN OF STEEL is about a hero learning on the job and not really doing all that great his first time out. He wins, but the cost is horrific. That will stay with him.

Rather than slipshod, as I have seen complain, I think the script for MAN OF STEEL was actually unusually consistent for a picture its size. You just have to look a little deeper to see it.

The characters are terrific, too. Lois is played as wonderfully smart and brave. Perry White is gruff, but also caring. And Russell Crowe as “Jor-El: Dragon Riding Science Gangster” is off-the-charts great. In all, MAN OF STEEL is a better film than people give it credit for, and is more than a little misunderstood. Hope I cleared some of that up for ya.

GALACTICA-MERMAIDS

NEW DYNAMITE
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Dynamite Entertainment


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Two newbies from the folks at DE…

Writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are known for having a gift for the cosmic, so they sounded like inspired choices to tackle BATTLESTAR GALACTICA #1. The question was: which one? The answer: a fascinating blend of Galactica Classic. Original Adama, Apollo, and Starbuck, but the tale is set far enough ahead that we meet GALACTICA 1980’s Dr. Zee as part of the cast. The story opens up with the old crew still on the run, but their run may be over when a massive Cylon fleet arrives to put a final end to the legendary ship. However, Zee offers up the use of forbidden weaponry that unravels the time stream, sending Apollo and Starbuck on a mission that will either save every last remaining human or see them dead. Needless to say, there are… complications. I’m pretty picky when it comes to this property, so I was surprised at just how much it worked for me. The script ties together the two original series in entertaining ways, the dialogue feels right for the actors who played the roles, and artist Cezar Razek does a solid job of telling the tale on the page. This was one of the most genuine comics pleasures I’ve had recently.

The main book lost me a while ago with its highly complex plotting and the number of characters, so I was not exactly excited about DAMSELS: MERMAIDS #1. Then I opened the cover and saw that it was written by Matt Sturges, whose HOUSE OF MYSTERY was one of Vertigo’s best books over the last six years, and I knew things were going to be okay with this book. And after reading it, they are more than okay – they are pretty damn good. Honing in on just one “damsel” (The Little Mermaid) and placing her in the middle of an undersea political feud, readjusting her relationship to the handsome prince, and giving the title character… well, a lot of character… Sturges completely sucked me in to a story I could understand and develop a rooting interest in quickly. The script sets the stage for the basic conflicts, delivers action and intrigue… everything you want from a first issue to keep you coming back for more. And artist Jean-Paul Deshong does well on the storytelling end of things, the pages looking quite nice. Overall, this was just a lovely surprise from cover to cover.






CHIN MUSIC-BOUNCE

CHIN MUSIC/THE BOUNCE
Written by Steve Niles and Joe Casey
Drawn by Tony Harris and David Messina
Published by Image Comics


Reviewed by Marc Mason

What do you get when you add together Eliot Ness, Al Capone, and a healthy dose of Middle Eastern mysticism? CHIN MUSIC #1, the new book from dynamic duo Steve Niles and Tony Harris. Interestingly, the book holds back as much as it can for as long as it can. The back cover tells you nothing, there is no internal introduction… it just jumps right in. So until halfway through the book, you have no idea that Ness is even a character here. Instead, the art just takes you through a man performing some sort of ritual on a bullet, then sends you to the Egyptian desert for some freaky hijinx. Only after that does the plot begin to truly fall into place. It’s a risky move by Niles; he counts on the reader to stick with the book on faith and quality alone, and that actually does work. In no small part, that’s because Harris remains one of the finest artists working in comics today. His pages are stunning; innovative layouts, rich and vibrant colors… the book is a visual feast. Throw in a genuine stunner of a final page, and CHIN MUSIC is one to seriously watch.

What if Peter Parker was a stoner douchebag? Then you’d get THE BOUNCE, which finds its hero toking off of one of the largest bongs in comics history on page one. But that doesn’t mean that young Jasper Jenkins is useless as a hero. He actually manages to do a decent job of it, with the exception of not preventing the chief of police from being murdered. Unfortunately for Jasper, the chief’s replacement is going to be a serious problem. Set it all in a world where costumes and masks are just beginning to become the norm, and you have some fertile ground for Casey and Messina to plant their many seeds in. The scripting has a light touch to it; Casey reins in his tendency for over-the-top crazy and keeps things on a linear keel, which helps the reader stay involved. But the real star here is Messina’s art. He’s done terrific work since he first started breaking in to American comics, but this book is a huge leap forward for him. His stuff has never looked better than it does here. Overall, this is solid stuff.