Saturday, August 15, 2009

I have a confession: Several years after lambasting Geoff Johns for his comic, Green Lantern: Rebirth, Green Lantern has become one of my favorite superhero comics. It's got just the right mixture of Hill Street Blues, Star Wars, and superheroics. Instead of an endless string of battles against supervillains, one after another, Johns' Green Lantern is pretty much just one big story, which has gotten even bigger as it currently embraces the rest of DC Comics' superhero universe in the pages of Blackest Night.

I'll probably write more about Green Lantern and Blackest Night at a later date. But today I want to rave about Geoff Johns' newest comic, Adventure Comics #1. Certainly my favorite comic of the week. If it keeps up, probably my new favorite superhero comic.

While I try not to be too much of an old man, bitching about why can't comics be just like the ones I used to read, truth is, there are comics I used to read and love and can't find anything like any more. One of them was The New Adventures of Superboy. I liked the small-town setting, and the fact that, unlike Superman stories, the Superboy tales were less about him fighting supervillains and more about his life on the farm and his relationships with his friends and family.

(Of course, it's possible that the actual comics were nothing like that. But that's the thing about nostalgia, isn't it? You don't want to reexperience something just like you did before; you want to reexperience it the way you remember experiencing it the first time.)

I'm not a huge fan of the current Superboy. Nothing wrong with him; in fact, I really liked his earlier adventures by Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett, with their neo-Jack Kirby vibe. But that's because I was a fan of those creators, not of the character specifically. I was planning on buying this new Adventure Comics series, because I like Geoff Johns and the artist, Francis Manapul, not because it was about Superboy. (Oh, and because it has a Legion of Super-Heroes backup.) It was a comic I was anticipating enough to order, but not one I was necessarily more excited about than the other superhero comics I get.

Then I was listening to the podcast of the Superman panel from this year's San Diego ComiCon, and James Robinson (one of my all-time favorite comics writers, and the man responsible for my reading Superman comics again) described Adventure as having a Ray Bradbury or Norman Rockwell feel to it. And I realized that's how I remember those older Superboy comics feeling. And while I love the comics I am currently reading--otherwise I wouldn't be buying them--I'm not getting anything that feels quite like that. So I started getting excited.

The comic totally lived up to my anticipation. We see Superboy on the farm, going to school, rescuing a girl who falls in a river, and talking to his friend/father Superman. (He's not a son; he's a clone. Not sure what the right term for his relationship to Superman would be.) No supervillains, no fights. And while there are hits of trouble down the road, they seem more rooted in character than plot contrivance. It's exactly the comic I was hoping for.

And the art is nice, too.

Plus, it's got the Legion of Super-Heroes as a backup feature. I first discovered the Legion when it was being written and drawn by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen, pretty much universally recognized as one of the team's golden ages. I kept reading it even after Levitz left, but gradually drifted away. It just wasn't the same for me, and apparently I wasn't the only one. DC has tried numerous revamps and reboots for the series, none of which have restored it to its former glory (by which I mean sales).

I think switching to the backup format may be the best idea yet to rebuild interest in the feature. It keeps the Legion in the public eye without the burden of carrying their own book. Perhaps more importantly, the short page count forces Johns and his fellow creators to focus on one or two characters at a time. One of the Legion's selling points--at least for me--has always been its big cast. However, I can see why trying to learn all those characters can seem off-putting to new readers. Giving the Legion a format that allows more of a focus on the individuals will help ease readers into the series, instead of dumping them in the deep end.

Will the series continue to hold my interest and excite me? Only time will tell. But for now, I'm hooked.

Friday, August 14, 2009

So I haven't seen Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince yet (but I want to), nor have I seen GI Joe yet (although that's not necessarily a must-see). However, we did go to see Julie & Julia yesterday. Not a particularly explodey movie, but probably more relevant to our lives than the other two.

It's based on a book by Julie Powell, detailing a year she spent cooking every recipe out of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blogging about it. It's also based on Julia Child's autobiography of the years she spent writing the book, and her relationship with her husband. It stars Amy Adams (Amy McAdams? Rachel Adams? Can't keep them straight) as Julie Powell, and Meryl Streep as Julia, with Stanley Tucci (one of my favorite actors) as Julia's husband, Paul Child, and some Hollywood pretty boy as Julie's husband.

I had read Julie Powell's book, and enjoyed it. I liked the movie, too, but I think I liked the "real" Julie better. The movie just didn't really give a strong sense of the reasons why she decided to take on the project of cooking her way through the book. I get that a book is always going to be deeper and more introspective by its nature, but considering that the movie is about the Julie/Julia Project, explaining its origins is pretty much a necessity. Following on from that weakness, the movie Julie and her husband come across as fairly shallow, and a little too cute. When they do have problems, they seem to come out of nowhere, and get resolved just as easily.

The Julia Child segments, on the other hand, are a lot of fun. Perhaps there is nothing particularly earth-shattering about writing a cookbook, but that doesn't make the story any less interesting. Even more interesting is her relationship with her husband, Paul. Meryl Streep's portrayal of Julia Child is perhaps a bit broad (in the way that Las Vegas in the summer is a big hot) but Stanley Tucci--as Paul--is so grounded and down to earth and believable, he helps bring Meryl Streep down with him. He makes you believe that these are two people completely in love. And when we see them together like that, we understand that she isn't just some easily-parodied crazy chef. While perhaps best known for her passion about food, she was clearly passionate about all things in life, as this movie illustrates.

So, while perhaps not a completely successful movie, it's certainly one that I enjoyed.