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I had four comics this week; hardly enough to give an accurate idea of what the best and worst comics are.
Since I started picking this book up in November, Amazing Spider-Man has been very close, or has been, my pick of the week. This week is no different. With the second of this book’s two rotating artists, Ramos and Caselli, Caselli has a similar style but unique take on the wall crawler. There are some great action beats that are drawing very well, character moments that are true to those characters, but at the same time it moves them forward. This current arc is about Spider Slayer Alistar Smythe who is back to ruin the life of the beloved J. Jonah Jameson. Naturally JJJ has some moments that highlight his hate for Spider-Man, but also his realization that Spider-Man isn’t the nuisance he makes him out to be. It’s similar to Barney Stinson for How I Met Your Mother, who we all know is a jack ass, but shows moments of sincerity. Slott has been writing some cliffhangers that feel much like a comic book should. He leaves the story at a spot that is logical and makes you want to read the next issue. With a book that is bi-weekly, I don’t have to wait long.
My pick for worst of the week is Thor #619, a book that has been here lately. I am almost done with this book, a book that hardly has any structure, a story that is trying to get back to its former status quo and a book that makes brow raising choices that make you shake your head. The only reason i keep buying this book is Pasquel Ferry. This guy can draw some great fantasy characters and draws Asgardians that look both fantastical and science fictional at the same time. For those who know Thor, know that this is how they character should be drawn. With Marvel changing Thor back to the title characters original book, Journey into Mystery and starting a new Thor series, The Might Thor, written by Fraction and drawn by former Thor artist Oliver Copiel, I may be done with this character for now. Gillen will be writing Journey, and he is a writer I can’t get into, and I haven’t liked what Fraction has done with Thor so far. Sorry Marvel, I am sure you will get lots of new readers with this maneuver, but I probably won’t be one of them.
I also picked up Invincible Iron Man #500. Marvel has decided to amalgamate all the volumes of Iron Man into one and go back to its original numbering, and to celebrate created a huge anniversary issue with three different artists telling two stories: one present and one future. The story was alright; jumping back and forth between the two time periods. However, the art was too wildly inconsistent, especially in the future story where I had no idea what was going on in some panels. Not sure if it was the colouring or the inking, but is seemed rushed and sloppy. The style is meant to be gritty, but this wasn’t pulled off well.
Finally, the last book was my only DC book this week, Brightest Day #18, and I am going to give spoiler warnings here. This issue focuses on the Hawks, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and their involvement in this series up until this point has highlighted the continuity mess that these two characters share. It would take too long to explain it all, so I will take the easy way out and point to a Wikipedia article on Hawkman . Brightest Day #18 finally gets the Hawks to a place where they can finally shed all that past continuity and start fresh, but Johns and Tomsai say that isn’t enough and kill off the characters for good. This May be the first real deaths of DC’s dead is dead that was pronounced by Hal Jordan back in Brightest Day #8. This may also be a way to create a new Hawkman or Hawkgirl that cannot be added to the continuity of the former. Brightest Day is almost over; there are seven issues left and this is book is bi-weekly, so that’s about three months worth of story to go and there is a lot that can happen.
The Walking Dead has aired two episodes as of this post. I wrote earlier how the premiere smashed AMC’s first episode record with 5.3 million initial views. With the second episode keeping up the quality of the first, as well as garnering 4.7 million views, the zombie/ character driven show has been picked up for 13 second season episodes. Looks like AMC has another hit on their hands, and has given me a topic for this week’s article.
Adaptations can be a tricky venture. With the success of X-Men (2000) superhero and comic book movies have become a source of stories to adapt to the big screen. While X-Men isn’t the first superhero movie, or the pinnacle of superhero movies, it did show present day studios that cinema was at a point where superheroes could be shown on screen in realistic fashion. Once superheroes became popular so too did other comic book genres, as all types of books were turned into films.
What we seemingly have gotten though are two different types of adaptations; ones that follow a book panel-by-panel and others that don’t, and either of these aren’t necessarily bad or good. Films like Sin City, Scott Pilgrim or Watchmen are essentially the graphic novels in motion, films that do look beautiful, but, at least for me, don’t add anything to what the books had already said. Films that use this panel-by-panel adaptation are generally graphic novels or mini-series’ that are essentially one shot stories. While not everyone who has seen a film like Sin City has read the books, and it can be said that the film merely lets those who wouldn’t read the book in on the story that Frank Millar has told. It can also be argued that the film is a great noir film and can be added to the staple of this genre for future stories to use.
There are films though that don’t adapt a story panel-by-panel that are both good and bad films. Look at The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 3. The Dark Knight uses a number of story elements from a plethora of Batman books to weave its tale, where Spider-Man 3 seems to use only a few elements from its source, almost 40 years of Spider-Man comics. This is not to say that an adaptation’s success is based on its faithfulness to its source material, but it’s what it does with that source material that makes it a success, especially with characters that have such a large source to tell a story. While Spider-Man 3 had three villians to The Dark Knights two, the Dark Knight weaves in the history of each villian together within the film that makes sense to the story, where as Spider-Man 3 throws in various villians at various times, and yes these villians do test Peter, they are each incongruent to the overal plot of the film. Plus Peter goes emo, dances and hits a women, very different from most of the sources that come before it.
The Walking Dead is an adaptation that isn’t based on a panel-by-panel adaptation, but takes an ongoing comic, though one that doesn’t have the age of Batman or Spider-Man’s books, and uses it as a guideline to create a story. The first episodes of a six episode season covers the first two issues of a six issue first arc, but it adds pieces that aren’t in those first two issues, mostly character work. The second episode however starts pulling from different issues, as well as inserting new elements and characters that are new to the series; this allows a new type of tension, one that is familiar to live action shows or films, but not necessarily comic books. The scene in question (spoilers ahead) is when new character T-Dog drops the handcuff key accidently down a drain leaving another new character, Merel, handcuffed to a pipe on the rough as the walkers approach. This scene is not in the comic, but without seemingly sacrificing characters established in the comic before they are intended, it allows the audience to witness what life has become in this new survivalist world at a pace that differs from the comic.
Adaptations are tricky, and ultimately I believe they should add to the source they are using, not just creating a copy for consumption by consumers. By adding to the source I mean adding something to the overall story, not just the genre. I wonder though, what would Watchmen have been like if it wasn’t a panel-by-panel adaptation, and was allowed to use the graphic novel as a guideline. Maybe that will be part two of this article.