Friday, August 12, 2005

ScatterThoughts: The Books Of August 10

Though I'm still behind the times while I await my shipment, I do have a couple of quick thoughts on what I got at 2005 Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award Winning Night Flight Comics this week. Which means there may be another "ScatterThoughts" when I get the rest of the week's books.

Seven Soldiers: Zatanna Issue 3

David: They said the album cover is a bit sexist.
Nigel: Well, so what? What's wrong with being sexy?
David: Sexist, Nigel.
- This Is Spinal Tap

I swear I don't know why I keep coming back to the issue of sexploitation in mainstream comics. Maybe it's because I have two young daughters who I would love to introduce to a hobby that so often goes out of it's way to exclude them. Maybe it's because I just think that comics should be above that: we read tales of heroes that exemplify the best in human nature, and wrap it in a human failing. Maybe it's because I just don't like it.

Sexiness is all well and good, and I think has a place in comics. Part of the conventions of the genre demand that these are attractive people: from James Kirk to Remington Steele to Wonder Woman, sex is part of genre fiction. But there's a fine line, and Ryan Sook's revamp of Zatanna's classic costume crosses it. It's a simple shift from the covert to the overt, from titilation to trash, from sexy to sexist. And the real shame is that this issue is the best of this miniseries that's given us a new kind of female hero. Morrison's made her a woman that falls into neither Madonna nor Whore, while also avoiding the trap of making her sexless. She's fully realized, and that's a rarity in mainstream comics. So to undercut that with an outfit that would make Paris Hilton blush is just a shame.

Outsiders Issue 27
Overall, this two-parter featuring some of the Outsiders of old was thoroughly enjoyable. I remember the first issue coming out, and it was one of my favorite teams of that era. And while the last page featured a "surprise" that was all too common in the grim-n-gritty 90s, I can't help but wonder what it means now. I wouldn't have really given the last page of this issue a second thought before the issues of Infinite Crisis took shape. After the events of the Sacrifice arc, it's become obvious that the line is being drawn in the DCU between heroes who will kill, and those who won't. So Katana's actions take on a much greater significance, and I'm wondering if this will be picked up on. These are fill-in issues, after all. I'm hoping the next issue will see the repercussions of this action played out, or there's going to be a another hole in the cohesiveness of the DCU. When the plan is to involve most titles in the setup of Infinite Crisis, any thread left dangling is a problem.

Battle Royale Volume 1
Well, I have finally dipped my toe in the manga pool. I picked up the first volume of Battle Royale this week, and am thoroughly enjoying it. I'll probably write a larger piece later, but just wanted to talk about this "unflipped" business. Battle Royale is published as it is in Japan - reading from right to left. Each page's layout is "backwards" to an American reader, and it's a real adjustment. I read the page scanned here a few times, trying to figure out why he flicked his lighter before getting a cigarette out of the pack ... until I realized I was reading it "backwards". It's like learning a new language. When I first started trying to get my wife to read comics, she mentioned that she sometimes just couldn't follow the layout, couldn't tell the sequential order of the panels and speech bubbles. It's something that's so second nature to comics readers, it's easy to forget what a learned system it actually is. Having to concentrate on layout and sequence in Battle Royale is like getting a set of fresh, untrained eyes ... and it's quite a lot of fun to "see" things again.


zilla said...

i'm w/ you setting out on the manga adventure mark. i'm knee deep in blade of the immortal v1.

zilla said...

ps have you ever seen the Japanese MOVIE "Battle Royale"?

Mark Fossen said...

Is Blade of the Immortal "flipped"? If so, you should try something that isn't. It's wierd, but fun.

I haven't seen the movie yet, no. Once I get through a few more volumes, I'll check it out.

Jim Roeg said...

Great comments, Mark. I'm glad that others are enjoying the old Outsiders too. To be honest, I wasn't as satisfied by these two issues as I wanted to be, but you make a really good point about the potential significance of Katana's action in the context of the wider DCU. Given the degree of cohensiveness DC is aiming for right now, I'd be very surprised if someone doesn't pick up on this in the coming months.

About Battle Royale. Have you read the novel? I really recommend it. It's long, but so, so addictive. The type of book you'll stay up all night to finish. I think it might even be saying something profound in a pop kind of way, but my brother-in-law made off with it before I could figure out what.

Shane Bailey said...

I loved Battle Royale the novel, but didn't really like the manga suprisingly. I think it was because I could read the book all at once and I had to wait on the manga. I didn't like reading it in installments.

zilla said...

is the novel the same story as the movie?

Shane Bailey said...

I believe so. I'm not 100% certain though.

Battle Royale Lover said...

The movie is REALLY different from the manga and novel. The manga follows the original deaths and causes in the novel. While the movie goes and does it's own thing. That's movie-making for you. T-T