My Week in Comics: June 13–19, 2010

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Since posting has slowed to a crawl, thought I’d try something different, see if I can keep up a weekly column. The format is up in the air, and it may not ultimately end up posting on Sundays, but this what I’m going to try for now. Instead of a “Week in Comics” news-style column, since a lot of people already do that better than I could, I’m going with “My Week in Comics,” one to three short essays on whatever I’m thinking about related to comics that week. This could be mini-think-pieces, or things like events I attend that I might not have written up if I felt like I had to do a full-length piece on them, plus a list of what I read that week, maybe sometimes with brief comments. Not this time anyway.

This week: Scott Pilgrim the movie versus Scott Pilgrim the comic and my experience trying out the new Legion of Superhero comics. Future weeks: things that are better, as I get the hang of this.


Thoughts on the Scott Pilgrim movie

I’VE DEVELOPED SOMETHING of a reputation among the folks my age at work for hating both fun and joy, which may be fair, but I’d like to think isn’t. It seems quite natural to me that a guy seeing TRON for the first time at twenty-six won’t get as much from it as those who first saw it when they were five.

Anyway, the latest thing that gives me pause in outright denying the charge is that I seem to be the only person in comics not terribly excited about the upcoming Scott Pilgrim movie. Which is not to say I’m particularly against it—I’ve thought the trailers have looked fine, and of course I’m happy for Bryan Lee O’Malley and everyone at Oni for the Hollywood windfall and for the attention it’s brought to the books—but it would never have occurred to me that Scott Pilgrim needed to be a movie, and I simply don’t find myself anticipating it very strongly, in spite of my affection for the series and love for previous Edgar Wright films.

It’s Edgar Wright’s involvement that has been the strongest argument from a friend as to why the movie is worth anticipating. But I’d rather see him do something original, something that’s meant to be a movie, than an adaptation of something so unique to its creator and so thoroughly designed to take advantage of the comics medium. In short, why does everything have to be a movie?

A Scott Pilgrim movie will be missing O’Malley’s artwork, which is what makes Scott and his friends unique and charismatic. In the trailer, the characters all appear sullen and dumpy, and since they’re played by real people, are no more or less interesting-looking than kids in any other movie. Fitting the six books into a single film will also necessitate speeding up the series’ relaxed pace and focusing more closely on the plot—of which there is quite little—at the expense of the pace and tone I enjoyed in the comics.

It’s interesting to me that I haven’t had a similar apprehension to other types of comic book movies. Sure, I wouldn’t miss the various Bat-Spider-Iron movies that much if they were gone, but neither did I feel like they were a bad idea. I think the difference is that a character like Batman is already just a product, with as many interpretations as there have been writers and artists working on the character, so the movies are really just one more. I think it would be different if the studio chose a particular version to interpret. I imagine I’d feel much more trepidation if the next movie were to be specifically based upon The Dark Knight Returns or an adaptation of Grant Morrison’s current run.

In short, without O’Malley’s artwork, unique sensibility, and the fun he has playing with the medium, I don’t know what makes this any more or less worthy of anticipation than any other Summer movie. If the exact same movie weren’t based on a comic I like, I doubt I’d even notice it was coming.

Legion of Superheroes relaunch

LOOKING FOR A NEW superhero franchise to try out, this week I read both of the Legion of Superheroes comics released in the last month, Legion of Superheroes #1 and Adventure Comics #12 (which a ghost number behind the “12” tells me is also #515). Each is written by Paul Levitz, who had a fondly remembered run on the series decades ago, and his return coupled with a new #1 seemed like an inviting place to give the concept a try. While neither of the issue numbers on Adventure were a #1, it also appeared to be a new beginning, Levitz’s first, and the first to feature the Legion as the main attraction; previous issues were dedicated to the current iteration of Superboy.

I’ve been reading comics long enough to know that a #1 on a cover—even one announcing “An all-new era begins!”—is no guarantee that the contents of the book will actually be the beginning of a story. In this case the change of writer from the last few series the Legion has appeared in and my apparent misunderstanding of the point of Legion of Three Worlds—I only read the first issue and found it impenetrable, but had thought that part of the point of it was to clear the decks for a restart—led me to go in expecting something a little more new-reader-friendly. And while I wasn’t as lost as I was reading Legion of Three Worlds, I still had to navigate references to plot threads from that story, a recent Superman or Action Comics arc involving the Legion, and, I think, Blackest Night. Some interesting ideas and compelling character moments popped up in between, but so many balls were already in the air that the overall effect wasn’t inviting.

These aren’t full reviews, but I bring the two issues up because I found it ironic that the much more new-reader-friendly of the two issues was the one that wasn’t a #1. A standalone issue that introduces the many Legionnaires more gradually and uses Superboy (the classic Superman-when-he-was-a-boy version) as a familiar point-of-view character, I enjoyed the story in Adventure Comics much more and felt eased into the world more smoothly. The story, Superboy visits the future for a day and is able to be himself in ways he can’t in twenty-first century Smallville, while perhaps not the kind that can fill every issue, had much more charm and was a satisfying whole.

Compared to the other series’ grown-up Legion dealing with the fallout of several half-explained events from other series, it was an intro that made me want to read more. Now if only the art in Adventure were as good as in Legion. I like how Kevin Sharpe makes Superboy actually look like a kid, but Yildiray Cinar does a much better job differentiating the many characters and depicting their individual facial expressions and body language in Legion.

I’ll likely give Legion another shot to see if it works better as it moves further from those past events, but I’m actually looking forward to checking back in with Superboy and the younger Legion next month.

Read this week:

  • Adventure Comics #12/515 by Paul Levitz, Kevin Sharpe, Mario Alquiza & Marc Deering
  • chapters from Essential Defenders vol. 2 by Steve Gerber et al.
  • Fear Agent vol. 2 by Rick Remender & Jerome Opeña
  • Fortune and Glory (color edition) by Brian Michael Bendis
  • Freakangels vol. 2 by Warren Ellis & Paul Duffield
  • Hard Boiled by Frank Miller and Geof Darrow
  • Legion of Superheroes #1 by Paul Levitz, Yildiray Cinar & Wayne Faucher
  • Other Lives by Peter Bagge
  • Private Beach: Secret Messages by David Hahn

Images from Scott Pilgrim © Bryan Lee O’Malley. Images from Scott Pilgrim movie © Universal Studios. Images of Legion of Superheroes and Adventure Comics © DC Comics.

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