Books To Pass Up
Part of the process of writing a comic book review blog is sifting through a lot of published material. Generally, I only pick up books that for one reason or another, spark my interest. Interesting cover art, promising premise, favorite author or subject. Unfortunately, not every book that meets this criteria is also good.
I’ve read some of this crap so you don’t have to. And here’s what you might want to consider passing by on the shelf .
I’ve watched bits and pieces of X-Men Evolution, the cartoon series which had a three year run from 2000-2003 on WB. It wasn’t that good – it wasn’t anything compared to the glory of the X-Men: The Animated Series which hooked me and pulled me into comic books as a kid. But if you asked me to pick between watching Evolution or reading this series – I would pick Evolution. It seemed as if First Class might retell the old stories, set in that time frame with better art, dialogue and a shiny polish on the plotting. Sadly, no. It’s simply yet another reboot. Another time-line. Another sideways reality. And frankly…the writing isn’t enough to keep me there. The art is decent – if a tad cartoony. But please, don’t waste your time here.
I like Bill Hader as a comedian, but his choice in comic books is truly terribly. His foreword proves that alongside his ability to entertain, he’s also a good writer…but again, he and I would definitely argue over what constitutes a reasonable effort in comic books. This book – is not it. Along with other mini-series outings I’ve read over the years, this book glories in violence for the sake of violence, with characters that have no redeemable value. Take for instance – a flick like Crank which I watched last night. It was an adrenaline soaked 90 minutes of ridiculous bullshit fun. And at the end – the character died. Because he deserved it – he had not real emotional investment or even a basic morality with which I could get onboard. There was no great epiphany or respect or real caring for him…and his death was actually quite entertaining. If I’m gonna read a comic book about a reformed villian who switches sides and becomes a begrudging vigilante hero, then I need to give a crap about him. Otherwise, I will be hoping that he dies in an interesting or at least somewhat heroic way right up until the end, and when he doesn’t, I will be sorely disappointed.
This felt a bit too much like Wanted, a comic book movie I watched without reading the book. The movie was watchable, but nothing outstanding, and from reading some brief reviews, it didn’t seem like the book was going to be much better. Worse, in fact. At least James McAvoy was some tasty eye candy – and the first 20 minutes or so were entertaining. But yes, these kind of books seem to be the trend lately. And they inevitably highlight all the worst elements of comic books for me. If you are going to have a morally corrupt main character, at least make him interesting beyond his weird lineage or origin.
3. The Beats.
I wanted to like this book. And at times it definitely succeeded in winning me over, but honestly I couldn’t compel myself to read it in it’s entirety. There’s a lot of good and interesting information, along with some really nice visuals – but as someone who took a college course on the Beats and read through a “Beat Reader” complete with biographies…there isn’t much more information for me to learn. So yes, personal bias is playing a huge factor here. As an introduction to the Beats for a High School or College student, this would be an entertaining and interesting way to start fact gathering.
But I couldn’t get over how lame it was he’d left out even a one page bio for the women of the Beat world who also produced some pretty fantastic stuff. He included some pretty unimportant facts about Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs (as well as mentioning Burroughs fascination with young South American boys in three separate panels), which could have easily been scrapped and more attention paid to some of the other Beat artists.
There was also an opportunity missed there to have the characters interact on page with some fun dialogue, but it seemed the intention was to be truthful to history, rather than play with it in any creative way. I suppose that’s the Pekar way though – lots of straight facts, not a lot of imaginative “what ifs” happening in his work. Which isn’t intended to be disparaging by any means.
Any other books you’d suggest skipping?