Right around the time Wes Craven sadly passed away last year, the comic Coming of Rage #1 appeared bearing his name, and that of Steve Niles. Whilst the timing may have led to thoughts of a cash-in, obviously work on the comic had begun far before his death. Keen to immerse myself in as much Craven as possible, I grabbed a copy of the first issue to see what it was like. Here are some quick thoughts:
Things I liked:
- It’s a Wes Craven comic. You can definitely feel Craven’s influence here. At times you can see the spirit of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), though to be frank, it is more often the spirit of lesser Craven, particularly Cursed (2005). Even though that film is certainly toward the bottom of his oeuvre, I think it still has a good teen horror vibe that hopefully this series can cultivate over time. Also, and I don’t mean this disparagingly, the best bit in this whole issue is the afterword Craven right at the end. In it, Craven tells where the idea for the series came from and how he sees it unfolding. Not all of that is on the pages of this first issue, but to hear the great man lay out his vision, that’s a major attraction. It ends with the crushing coda that he thinks Coming of Rage would make a good TV series (I can certainly see that) and that he would love to make it. Man, a Wes Craven horror TV show would have been utterly badarse.
- The cover – I had this lying around for a few weeks before I had a read. For the first little bit, I thought the cover was pretty rubbish. But it really grew on me. The contrast of a normal face with a monstrous middle (and tips of fingers) and the way that middle section is a piece of paper torn away. It’s a cool bit of pretty classical horror imagery.
Things I didn’t:
- The story – I’ll acknowledge that first issues are hard to do in comics. By design, they essentially have to be solely set-up with very little actual story. The issue here is that neither of those aspects really resonate or show you anything decidedly different. There is some ok mythology, but you’ve probably seen everything here multiple times before. Neither does the ending really leave you hanging as much as it should. I’m certainly not freaking out, desperate to get my hands on #2 cause I can’t bear the tension of not knowing what happens.
- The art is a mixed back, but below average overall. Some of the landscapes and interiors are pretty good. But what dominates are the pretty average character designs. They are uniformly bland, but on a lot of occasions they descend into bad. Most dissapointing of all are the tepid monster designs that just really don’t pop off the page at all.
Verdict: I guess the main question when summarising thoughts on a comic is if I’ll keep reading. The answer is yes… just. I’m attracted more by the fact it is a limited series (6 issues I believe) and thanks to Craven’s words at the end, rather than being totally blown away by the book itself. To be blunt, if Craven’s name wasn’t on it, I would not have been continuing. It’s obviously not totally awful, but hopefully the complexity of the story continues to increase. Stubby of Reschs
Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: Comics Review: Quick comic review: Marvel Star Wars #1 and Comic Review: Captain America the first Avenger film tie-in.
Whilst this is a movie site, rather than a comic one, I think it is interesting to chuck some reviews of different types of work on here occasionally. Plus the main story in The Adventures of Superman #14 is written by Max Landis, son of the great John Landis, he of the exceptional pitch for Ghostbusters 3 and writer of the excellent script behind the much beloved Chronicle (2012). So there is a film connection to this review.
There are a couple of great, distinguishing factors about this story from Landis. For starters, it features a nemesis of the Batman – The Joker, showing up on Superman’s turf. I am not all over comic book history, so it is quite possible these two have interacted on occasions before. But it was a novelty for me. One captured awesomely by the cover of the book which you can see above, with the Joker striking an iconic Superman pose.
The second distinguishing factor, and one that is possibly my favourite thing about this story, is that the ‘action’ so to speak consists almost entirely of the two characters standing around having a chat (ok Superman is technically hovering, but you get my drift). By having them literally just talking, trading dialogue, the effect is that the reader feels they can genuinely peer into the psyche of both a major villain and an archetypically perfect hero. I have not read a whole lot of Superman comics, but they generally seem ultra serious. Or at least the character is. It is great then that Landis sets up this patter between the two characters with Superman interacting and toying with the Joker on a really fun level. Some of the best moments here are when Supes laughs at the Joker’s jokes, a reaction that the supervillain is really not sure how to take.
Something else that will interest comic book readers, or just fans of their films, is the somewhat terse relationship between Superman and Batman that Landis constructs. I won’t give too much of the detail away cause you really should read it to get the flavour of it. During his discussion with the Joker, Superman perhaps reveals some of his true feelings about Bruce Wayne’s superhero alter-ego. And then toward the end of the story the two of them have a little clash over what the responsibilities of being a superhero. Landis expanded on some of these ideas on his twitter account, today. Check out some of his thoughts below (and if you are on twitter, Landis is a great follow and often tweets out really interesting stuff on the writing process.
I loved the boldness of some aspects of the art in the book as well. Artist Jock obviously did not feel constrained to present everything in the one style or even stick to one physical depiction of the Joker. It is an approach that is initially a touch disconcerting but definitely grew on me as the story progressed. And given my movie focus, it would be remiss of me not to share this amazing panel, which pays homage to the interpretation of the character by Nicholson, Ledger and others. It does not totally stick out as a gimmick either because I think the effect is to show the constantly evolving and shifting mental state of the Joker, even in a single sentence.
There is also a second, fun story about Superman babysitting in The Adventures of Superman #14. It is not written by Landis, so I won’t give it a full review. But consider it a fun little extra if you decide to pick this one up. Which I highly recommend you do. It is a breezy and original read with some interesting psychology and superhero relationship stuff going on underneath.
Verdict: Pint of Kilkenny
Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: Chronicle and Comic Review: Captain America The Winter Soldier film tie-in.
Probably for the first time in my life, I am a regular comic reader at the moment. I had long found comics too hard to get into, a niche subculture that I was interested in but that I struggled to find an entry point into. But after discovering a quality local shop nearby and getting into a bunch of ongoing series I am pretty hooked.
But this lack of real history with the form, means that I have no idea if film tie-ins are viewed with the same level of disparagement as they are with film tie-in novels (and a vast majority of tie-in games too). In any case, I grabbed the two issue limited series Captain America: The First Avenger the other day to check out. I am not entirely sure when the series came out, but it does seem a little strange that the series would be released more or less in association the second Captain America film. In any case, it is nice to dip back into the period world of the first Cap film. The two issues feature posters for the film as their covers. The connection to the film is made even plainer by the character design. Wisely, the character designs suggest the actors that play them in the film, without looking distractingly similar. Overall the art is assured, but relatively standard. It is a little old fashioned in a way, which helps to set the period atmosphere, capturing the hyper patriotism of the time and by extension the character of Captain America.
The major issue with this limited series is simply a structural one. There is far too much story to fit into just two issues. And when it is trying hard to do so, that is when the work splutters a fair bit. The plot needs space to breathe, but here there is not even enough space to cram the entire plot in, let alone add breathing space and other flourishes around the fringes. The writing is very wordy to try and get the film’s entire plot across. However, even with all the words, large swathes of development have to be canned because it is being adapted into such a short format. So characters come along with absolutely no introduction and events jump from one to another with large gaps in between. In reality, if you have not seen the film, the comics will be pretty hard to follow as there is just so much left out and not even really hinted at. The deficiencies in the storytelling are not just troublesome from a narrative point of view. It also means that the strength of the early parts of the comic – the war time atmosphere – is significantly diluted too, because none of it really makes it through to the story driven sequences. So much is being crammed in that only the action can be conveyed, nothing deeper.
There is plenty of really good stuff in this tie-in. But quite simply, the series needed to be three or four times longer so there was not a need to skip over such huge amounts of story. By doing that, a vast majority of the series’ issues could have been alleviated and this trip back to WWII would have been a lot more satisfying.
Verdict: Schooner of Carlton Draught