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I finished reading the Watchmen graphic novel. It’s a good book, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, but it really feels like it’s telling at least three different stories. Although Alan Moore weaves the stories together rather well, they still seem like they could have stood on their own, as distinct tales. And then there’s the Tales of the Black Freighter story which, unless I missed a subtle connection somewhere, is a distinct and separate story just thrown into the mix with no reason.

Rorschach’s story could make for an interesting series on its own. Doctor Manhattan’s story is a fascinating idea that needn’t be connected to the other characters at all. Ozymandias’ scheme is so weird that it feels strange amongst the almost realistic (other than Dr. Manhattan, of course) feel of the rest of the story. And the whole back story about the early crime-fighting groups seems unnecessary.

Again, I did enjoy this book. But at times it felt like I was reading three or four or five different novels in the same publication. It’s like Moore had all these ideas in his head and he wanted to get them all out and published immediately, even if at one time. Some of the stories would have made great individual series, and probably could have run for years like Batman and Spider-Man.

It’s a good book despite this jumbled weakness.


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Graphic Novels

With the trailer for the upcoming Watchmen movie, I decided I look into the graphic novel. I had heard of Watchmen back in the 80s when it was first published (1986), and I had heard it was good, but I just never saw it in a comic or book store.

After hearing about the movie, I looked Watchmen up on Wikipedia, and the information there made me very interested in reading it immediately. I found it pretty easily — a stack of them were displayed in the front of the local B&N.

Well, I have it now, and after reading the review blurbs on the back cover:

A masterwork representing the apex of artistry…
— Entertainment Weekly

The greatest piece of popular fiction ever produced.
— Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof

I’m excited to experience it. I’ve read the first dozen pages or so, and I’m hooked.

The graphic novel, as a literary art, is terribly under-appreciated by the mass public. It’s the middle ground between a book and a movie. Too many people think of them as “mere comic books” without ever realizing that many are nothing at all like the super hero genre they think of when they say “comic book.”

As for the experience of a graphic novel, you can read one faster than an equally detailed novel, and they usually have a much broader and deeper story than a movie. With the illustrations (the “graphic” part of the name), the reader can see immediately what everything looks like, just like in a movie. You don’t have to read through long passages of description like in a regular novel.

I have come to appreciate graphic novels even more as an entertainment medium in my later years, because I just don’t have all the free time I used to have. I can experience a full, deep, and detailed story in a fraction of the time it would take to read an equally detailed novel. And the stories are much more fulfilling than anything you can get out of a 60-, 90-, or even 120-minute movie.


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The New Avengers

I had seen the New Avengers comic title on the rack at a couple stores over the past couple of years, and the line up intrigued me: Captain America, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, and Iron Man. I never really could get into the old Avengers stories because the range of power levels — from Thor, a god, to Wasp, a miniature with stinging zaps — just made no sense to be on a team together. But this new line up seemed better balanced.

While browsing at a big book store, I found the first compilation of the New Avengers, Breakout: issues #1 through #6. I picked this book up and read it that night. I loved the writing, I loved the dialog, the characterization, the personality interactions, the action, and the story.

The only real problem I had with this story was how Spider-Man continued to fight and web-swing with a broken arm for two days.

So I bought a new compilation of this title each week: The Sentry (issues #7-10), Secrets & Lies (#11-15), The Collective (#16-20), and just this week, Civil War (#21-25).

I was surprised to like and enjoy The Sentry character and story. I really don’t care much for supreme-power-level characters, like Superman in DC comics. But The Sentry’s personality problem and back story (or lack thereof) are very interesting — a cool twist on how to bring in a new super hero to a fictional world with an already crowded and chronicled history.

With The Collective storyline, though, the New Avengers story started down a path that’s come to annoy me over the years — the in-depth crossover. Where the previous New Avengers books followed each after the previous, The Collective takes up the New Avengers story after a long and complicated story in other books: The House of M. Fortunately, though, the story in these issues #16-20 is relatively self contained, starting and ending with distinct points that don’t require knowledge of the other story.

But then the New Avengers Civil War story takes the crossover problem to the next level and starts the story already in the deep end. In media res is a legitimate storytelling method, but the author(s) should go back at some point and show what’s going on. This book doesn’t really do that. There’s an introductory text telling the reader what has happened before the first page, but this is a comic book — I want to see what happens, not be told what happened.

From the introductory text, it seems that some very strong characterization happened in the part of the story not covered in these books. And to make it worse, this book doesn’t tell the reader (me) where to find the part of the story I want to see. What title(s) is the story in? Dammit, it’s frustrating.


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Iron Man

Viewed: Theater (25 minutes of trailers!)

Back in the 80s and early 90s, I was a fan and collector of Iron Man comic books. By the late 90s, the writers were doing some really strange stuff with Tony Stark and I lost interest in the stories. But this movie. . . this movie makes me love Iron Man again. I think this movie will bring non-comic-fans to know Tony Stark like the original Spider-Man movie brought Peter Parker to the mainstream consciousness of the general public.

If the movie-goer didn’t know Iron Man was a comic book, they’d see this movie as pure science fiction rather than a super hero tale. You don’t need to know anything about the comic book to get into this movie story. This movie stays pretty true to the comic book origins for Iron Man, but updates the setting to the modern-day. The writers did an excellent job with this updating, and I am very pleased with the result — this movie is great.

We see Tony Stark, the billionaire playboy industrialist weapon designer become the billionaire defender/avenger. We see his near-death experience — which literally “scars” him for life — and his obsession with perfecting the armor he first created out of scraps from high-tech weapons. The movie takes us through the Mark I, II, and III armors so well that the advancement feels perfectly smooth and logical.

The writing is great, the acting is great, the special effects are superb, and they all come together to make a truly fantastic movie. I’ve been excited to see the movie since the first teaser trailers started coming out last year, but to be honest, I had my doubts as to whether it would actually be good. I so love it when my fears are so thoroughly wiped away.

For me, this movie is on the high-quality level of Transformers from last year. I’d even go so far as to say this movie is better because the writing, plot, and story are tighter. It’s just a damn good movie. I’ll see it again in the theater.

My only complaint about watching this movie has nothing to do with the movie itself. Twenty-five minutes of trailers before the feature is just ridiculous. Really. There should never be more than 15 minutes of trailers, and more than 10 should be rare.

There is an extra scene at the end of the credits, and for comic book fans, it’s definitely worth staying to see.


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