Azn Badger's Blog

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Luthor Review

What the fuck kinda' 'roids is Superman on in is picture?...

Let me just start this review off by making it clear that I’m not all that familiar with Brian Azzarello’s writing.

My brother has told me (on numerous occasions) that I’d probably enjoy 100 Bullets, but to date I have yet to crack open an issue.

My only firsthand experience I have in reading Azzarello’s work, was his and artist Lee Bermejo’s more recent graphic novel, Joker.

I was deeply impressed with Joker.

From a visual standpoint, Bermejo’s painting and pencils served to give the story a striking, cohesive, and altogether unique look that in many ways make it one of the handsomest comics on the stands.

More importantly though, the writing was strong throughout.

The dialogue was sharp, with all the various character’s “voices” and diction coming across in the text boxes as if they were being read aloud by the cast members themselves.

The one aspect of the storytelling that really made it all work though, was the decision to cast an associate of the Joker’s, Johnny Frost; as both the narrator and main character.

Writing from the Joker’s perspective is one of those things that requires an insanely talented writer, either that or it’s just plain impossible.

The character is simply too impulsive, crazy, and altogether unpredictable, to the point in which reading his thoughts would probably as difficult a struggle as the process of writing them.

By using Johnny Frost as our ambassador into the Joker’s world however, Azzarello effectively gave us a ground level look at the seedier denizens of Gotham city; all while avoiding any of the confusion that may have resulted from trying to get inside their heads.

For Luthor however, Azzarello; once again teamed with Bermejo, chose to cast Lex Luthor as both the narrator and central character.

In case you haven’t figured it out already, this didn’t settle with me.

Lex Luthor is not really one of my favorite characters in the DC universe.

Most of the Superman stories I’ve enjoyed over the years barely included Luthor, and for the most part I think of him as a character that is doomed to be portrayed in the same fashion over and over and over again.

The Joker lends writers a degree of flexibility that makes him an intriguing figure to explore.

Sometimes he’s batshit crazy, sometimes he’s surprisingly lucid, sometimes he kills people with fish.

He’s a playground of insanity that writers are free to play around in and add to on a whim.

Lex Luthor however, is kind of one note.

He hates Superman, he’s rich as fuck, he has an ego, and occasionally he has goofy homoerotic moments with Supes that most of us would probably prefer to forget.

Outside of a brief stint as a red-head with an Australian accent, the only real difference between Luthors that I’ve read, is that sometimes he wears power armor, and sometimes he wears a power tie.

The version we get in Azzarello’s Luthor, is of course of the power tie variety.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

On the contrary, I prefer power tie Luthor.

What I don’t particularly like about the Luthor featured in, uh, Luthor; is the fact that despite the whole story being presented through his thoughts, he never really develops a clear voice.

Luthor’s voice in Luthor is written using vocabulary and pacing that is meant to appeal to the reader as being provocative and “deep.”

Sadly, as I made it through the first few chapters of Luthor, I became disenchanted with Luthor’s supposedly “heady” ruminations.

While I won’t post any spoilers here, the basic plot of Luthor involves Lex Luthor enacting a plot to eclipse the fame of, and potentially deface the heroism of the alien being known as Superman.

Using a variety of seedy connections, and equally seedy methods, Luthor establishes his own brand new defender of Metropolis, a super-woman named Hope, making a media darling of her in the process.

Long story short, Hope stands as a living metaphor for Lex Luthor’s aspirations, Superman fights Batman (briefly), and Lex Luthor whines and schemes for 90% of the book.

Luthor isn’t a bad story, nor is the writing anything less than average; my main issue with the whole thing is the fact that the center of the plot, our vehicle by which we explore the entire universe Azzarello has created for his story, is just not all that interesting to read.

Far be it from me to demand outstandingly cerebral writing and plotlines from my comic books, but I found Luthor’s voice to be more tedious than “deep.”

Tedious, and redundant, most likely due to the story’s original publication as a series of issues as opposed to a graphic novel format.

It’s funny though, most of the dialogue and storytelling outside of the stuff coming directly from Luthor’s brain and mouth is pretty solid.

In particular, Azzarello’s playboy-to-the-extreme version of Bruce Wayne is fun to read, and wholly believable given the way he is presented to us.

Much like Batman in Azzarello’s more recent Joker graphic novel, Superman and Clark Kent have almost no physical presence in the story.

In both stories, the characters are spoken of, hinted at, but rarely seen; giving them a sense omniscience and menace uncommon to both characters.

While the story is told from Luthor’s perspective, and it indeed makes sense to do so, I found myself smirking at the sight of Lee Bermejo’s flame-eyed and uber-pissed Superman.

Go ahead and call it blasphemy, but I’m one of those guys that still thinks of Christopher Reeve whenever he pictures Superman.

Seeing Superman portrayed as a total beast of superhero is both a striking visual, and a unique perspective on the character, but personally; I just couldn’t take it as seriously as I did in the case of Batman in Joker.

You look up badass in the dictionary, and I’m sure you’ll find an image of Lee Bermejo’s rendering of Batman from Joker.

Speaking of Lee Bermejo, his art is just as fantastic, if not moreso than was the case in Joker.

Bearing a borderline photorealistic style, Bermejo’s greatest panels are the ones that are painted.

In the case of both books, Bermejo painted a large number of the panels, however the ratio seems to be somewhat higher in Luthor, most likely a result of it’s gradual release schedule as opposed to the “all-at-once” format of Joker.

While I favor the creativity in the design, and the darker color palette of Joker, Bermejo’s renderings of the towering skyscrapers of Metropolis, and it’s delightfully fashionable citizens are still some of the best comic art around.

Additional kudos to colorist Dave Stewart, as some of the weather phenomena and night scenes really stand out thanks to his work.

While his angles and panel layouts may not be the most intricate or unique, Bermejo’s character art is his strength, and Azzarello wisely keeps his story grounded so as to allow his artist to shine.

Anyway, I really don’t know where I’m going with this review anymore.

Like I said, Luthor is a pretty enjoyable story, particularly if you happen to like Lex Luthor as a character; (I don’t…) but bear in mind there are some pretty heavy-handed (and redundant) metaphors, as well as some instances of “big words for the sake of big words” that you’ll have to get past to find said enjoyment.

Thanks for reading, hopefully you’ll try before you buy unlike I did!

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Batman’s New Threads

I was clickin’ around on IGN earlier today, when I noticed an article in their comics section entitled, “Batman Has A New Costume.”

Being a Batman enthusiast, I naturally clicked it, half-expecting some sort of shocking redesign along the lines of Batman 500 AKA the Jean-Paul Valley Batman from the Knightfall story arc.

Pictured: The EXACT image that got me into comics in the early 90's.

You see, though I admittedly haven’t followed Grant Morrison’s recent work on the Batman series, least of all the death and return of Bruce Wayne portion of it, with all of the outlandish Batman costume designs being thrown around as of late, I figured we were due for even more craziness.

Goddamnit! I hella' wanna' hate on this image for being dumb, but it's so damn awesome!

Color me surprised when I discovered that not only was the costume redesign a helluva’ lot more tasteful than I was expecting, it was also done by Moon Knight and, *sigh…* Messiah Complex artist David Finch was responsible for it.

As beautiful as his art can be, GODDAMN YOU DAVID FINCH FOR TRICKING ME INTO READING MESSIAH COMPLEX!

That being said, let’s take a look at Mr. Finch’s work:

ART.

I have to say, not just as a David Finch whore, but as a Batman fan in general, I really don’t mind the new costume.

Most of the changes are quite subtle, with some elements, such as the classic; almost Tim Burton Batman-esque yellow chest emblem, actually being recycled elements from previous designs of the Bat-Suit.

Keaton Batman: The Finest Batman the Silver Screen Has Yet to Produce.

In some images I’ve run across, it seems apparent that DC was trying to cash in on the recent mega-success of the Arkham Asylum videogame, as both the beefier arm guards/gauntlets, the bulkier and more heavily ornamented utility belt, and the molded seam-lines of the suit seem very similar to the art style of the game.

No, the Joker is not about to suck Batman's cock. Buncha' dirty sickos...

Which reminds me, I simply have to play Arkham Asylum at some point…

The seam-lines I mentioned above are probably the one aspect of the design that I’m on the fence about.

How appropriate that that just happens to be the single most noticeable change from the current status quo.

To me, the best Bat-Suit designs have always been the ones that take advantage of the 2D, pen and paper medium.

Blue Batman = THE SHIT.

In comics, the artist has the ability to manufacture images of characters without having to take into consideration the physical properties of whatever materials their costumes are made of.

Depending on the artist’s sensibilities, or the mood of the story, Batman’s cape and cowl can be rendered as smooth and voluminous as silk, or as heavy and lustrous as leather.

Kind of like Spawn! You're not allowed to ask "why," you just kind of accept it...

In comics, Batman’s costume usually looks best to me when it’s portrayed as a skin-tight presence surrounding the character.

To me, Batman usually looks best when he isn’t so much wearing a Bat-Suit, as he is embodying it.

Jim Lee’s Batman always struck me as a fantastic, if not ludicrously beefy design.

Jim Lee's Batman is so fucking beastly, it should be spelt "Bat-MAAAANNN."

Aside from the utility belt and heavily detailed boots, every element of Lee’s Bat-Suit strike me as essentially being a part of Bruce Wayne’s anatomy.

At the same time though, I have to say I was very impressed with Lee Bermejo’s rendering of the Bat-Suit in Brian Azzarello’s excellent Joker graphic novel.

Not from Joker, but close enough. Did I mention this art is badass?

Essentially at the other end of the spectrum in terms of costume/character design, Bermejo’s extremely realistic renderings resulted in a Bat-Suit of tangible weight and bulk, so much so that it truly seemed like a suit of armor.

Not only that, but Bermejo’s design of Batman’s cape was truly striking, as it appeared leathery and almost obscenely heavy, such that it assisted in portraying the character as being almost inhumanly powerful and omniscent.

I’m rambling.

To sum up, Finch’s design of the Bat-Suit is honestly only a mild departure from the status quo, but it’s amazing how much an impact a few seam-lines can make.

Personally, I find the new design to be, how shall we say; “acceptable,” I wouldn’t be surprised if those seam-lines get the axe somewhere down the road, as honestly I find them to be somewhat distracting.

Much like pie... If anything can stop me in my tracks, it's the sight and/or smell of a delicious pie...

To me, it’s almost as if Finch is trying to straddle the line behind the Christopher Nolan movie’s Bat-Armor design, and the comic’s traditional Bat-Suit, with the end result being a costume that appears almost flight suit-ish.

So what if Batman has brown-guy hands. I'm lazy, so sue me.

While I find the design to be acceptable, I’ll end by saying this:

I’d take Jim Aparo or Jim Lee’s streamlined Bat-Suit over David Finch’s Bat-Flight-Suit any day.

That being said, here’s one more look at it for the road:

Cool enough, but nowhere Bat-MAAAANN levels of MAN-liness.

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Favorite Cover Artists: Tim Bradstreet

In keeping with the “grim and gritty” theme we established yesterday with my naming of Francesco Mattina as one of my favorite comic book cover artists, today we pay tribute to the prolific and uber-talented Tim Bradstreet.

Though he’s been working in the industry since the early 90’s, I first took notice of Mr. Bradstreet’s work when I first got back into comics in the mid-2000’s.

The comic responsible for getting me back into the mix, was of course Garth Ennis’ work on the Max version of the Punisher.

Despite all the laser sights, my money's on The Punisher in this one...

Bradstreet was responsible for designing the covers for every cover in the Punisher series, up until Ennis left the book, which of course was right around the time I stopped reading it.

Tim Bradstreet’s work is, much like Francesco Mattina’s, of the photorealistic variety.

Personally, I wouldn't trust a gold-toothed Michael Clark Duncan with my baby. Just sayin'...

In fact, though I can’t speak to Mr. Mattina’s artistic process, I know for a fact that Mr. Bradstreet makes extensive use of models and live-photo references of his own design.

Including our boy Thomas Jane!

Through tracing these photos, and then shading, stylizing them, and placing the figures in front of some of the dingiest, grimiest locales known to man,  Bradstreet is able to create some truly provocative imagery.

So... They really picked Keanu Reeves to play this guy?

Bradstreet’s work has a very distinct and consistent style to it that deals with composition in a way that’s much closer to photography than traditional pen and paper artistry.

That’s not to say Tim Bradstreet isn’t a true artistic talent, he is; it’s just that his work seems to stem from someone with more of an eye for photography than anything else.

I like this. No funny caption this time, sorry.

Unlike some of the more graphic design oriented cover artists in the comic industry, Bradstreet’s covers rarely ever contain any sort of dynamic colors or vector art.

More often than not, Bradstreet’s covers consist of little more than a topical image of the principle characters of the book, and amazingly enough, that’s usually enough to impress.

An example of a cover that totally bypasses any background elements in favor of placing all attention of the central figure.

Despite this, from time to time he puts out “louder” and more design heavy covers:

That's pretty fuckin' slick if I do say so myself.

Perhaps the most common, and striking, element of Tim Bradstreet’s covers is his propensity for obscuring his figures in shadow.

It’s a cliched technique, but in the case of most of the books that Bradstreet works on, namely some of the more pulpy books like The Punisher and Hellblazer, it works all too well.

BAD. ASS.

Anyway, that’s enough cock-sucking for one evening.

I’ve got overtime to look forward to tomorrow, so sorry for the decidedly lax post.

See yah’ tomorrow!

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