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August 17, 2007
Taking Notes: Volume 2

You know, I had really intended to go weekly with this article, and I did pretty well for a little while, but then I-- fuck it, I am not going to patronize anyone with my poor excuses, and whining about lack of monetary availability to pursue more entertainment to write about. The reality is, I fucked up, with any luck I'll get back on the horse and crack these out rather more frequently. Here's hoping, right? ... Psh, it's probably not going to happen, and I should suggest not expecting this brief glimpse ever to come very steadily. If Answerman can miss a few weeks, then so can I!

Watch as I soldier on ahead!

This Week:
- Booster Gold #1
- The Flash #231
- Ultimate Spider-Man #112
- Driving Lessons

Booster Gold #1
Credited as "the greatest hero the world has never known", Booster Gold is a self-aggrandizing publicity whore, for those of you who don't know the character. But don't let this disposition fool you, in spite of himself Booster is, and can be as heroic as they come, and even once threw himself in between Superman and Doomsday, where others hadn't, knowing they were all but useless in that battle. He is both heroic and narcissistic, and these personalities are balanced well enough that even when he knows what he wants to do, he also knows, deep down, what the right thing to do is.

On the surface, he's a revolting prima donna hero if there ever was one, and for those of you who like the boy-scout type, or the plain self-less sort, who may have their personal flaws but ultimately know and do the right thing without question, he may seem completely unsupportable and maybe even disgusting; but once you get to know the character, he becomes so much more.

Now moving into issue #1 itself, this issue takes place after the events of DC's 52 event in which Booster played a large role. For those of you who have not read the books of the event, Booster's role was such that he and two unlikely allies are forced into the defense of more than just their little universe from an evil time eating... insect... thingy. It's actually a lot more interesting than my shitty explanation suggests.

I realize as quickly as I tried to get back on track, I dove in front of a bus on that one. Ew, brain goo. So, really this time, taking place two months after the aforementioned events, we find Booster attempting to put himself back in the good graces of the Justice League by doing actual hero work; this time not for the glory, but just to prove he can. Unexpectedly, however, one of the unlikely allies he had made, and one he wanted to soon forget, shows back up on his door step to partner up again and stop a threat to the very fabric of history itself.

I've never read Booster Gold prior to the books referenced here, so I'll be the first to say that I started out in the mind that he was a very one dimensional character with limited morals and absolutely no sense what is right, beyond what is right for him. In reality, he is that, though; that and more. He proves that while he is just a self-aggrandizing sycophant, he's also a lot more and the build up of his character did a lot to take me from, "I can't support this jackass" to "Wow. He may be self-centered, but there's a lot more to him."

He may not be your pure, boy-scout type hero, but he's got it where it counts, and Geoff Johns writing really just set the tone of the story being told expertly. Totally makes the grade.

The Flash #231
Taking place after the events of what is known as the "Lightning Saga", which brought the Wests back home, issue #231 centers around the crashing of a commuter ferry, and the mysterious circumstances that surround it. Incredibly suspicious, Wally and his two powered children return to the sight to inspect the debris in an attempt to find out why the ferry crashed in the first place, and in doing so fall into a bit of a problem.

The Lightning Saga, for those of you who haven't read it, is a bit of an involved story; but suffice to say the West family had been missing for some time, with their fate resting uncertain, but through the actions undertaken during the five part series, the Wests were returned to Earth in one piece and putting to rest long standing doubts of their fate.

The first glimpse of Wally's return in All Flash, DC's one-shot reintroduction, was brilliant in my mind. The book itself was somewhat schizophrenic in a way, though, featuring a total of 7 different artists handling various pages, due to flash backs and other devices of the story. One artists work, however, got me really excited for the book to follow (The Flash #231) was Karl Kerschl, who admittedly does generic line-art, however artistic flare combined with the colorists involved with his pages (1-3, 10-16) makes it all the just really pleasing. It's really hard to describe how it looks, however, so look to the image that will inevitably precede this section.

Continuing, that issue really got me motivated for more Flash action, which was great, I was excited to see more; what I didn't think of at the time however was that the next issue preview featured actual art from the up coming book, which was done by Daniel Acuna, who goc lovingly refers to as "Mr. Pudding" (which I find both amusing and fitting) due to the way his painting style looks. It's worth noting, however, that all I've said thus far isn't to suggest that I hated the art direction, so much as it just wasn't to my liking and that, sadly, I was really caught up hoping that Kerschl would return for this book.

That is still my major disappointment, but this is more of my own fault than the fault of the artist who just drew the damn thing. What is ultimately the problem with this book, however, is that I was anticipating the next exploits of the Flash, but instead was handed over to a story focused mostly on his children; Wally does appear throughout the book, but the majority of the issue is focused on them, up until the end when the focus changes to to the ferry, and quickly becoming a throwaway story for me. It's like Fractured part 3 all over again.

I can only hope that the next issue is a little less, "The Children of The Flash", and a bit more, "The Flash- The Fastest Man Alive!". I am gung-ho for more Flash related exploits, and especially in the spirit of his light-speed re-introduction; so I regretfully say that The Flash #231 does not get my approval. Read it if you're a devoted Flash fan, otherwise just track down a copy of All Flash if you haven't read that.

Ultimate Spider-Man #112
Continuing on in another day in the life of the teenage web slinger, our hero has an average problem for once: a class project with his ex. Unbeknownst to the web-head, though, all the way in the depths of the Triskelion, the headquarters of S.H.I.E.L.D. where an old enemy is under lock and key, trouble begins to brew.

This issue doesn't have any real importance to the list beyond the introduction of a solo-act artist, in Stewart Immonen, who takes the reigns for the very first time, which is something I really wanted to talk about here, because he took the reigns from the accomplished Mark Bagley and co, who had handled the book for the first 111 issues; making this a significant event for Ultimate Spidey fans, and thus making its inclusion more of a discussion about the artistic style than anything else (the story is pretty basic among the books, but the end holds a decent pay-off.)

So Immonen's got the book, right? Foretells the doom of Ultimate Spider-Man, right? Not exactly, believe it or not. In fact, I am far and away several miles from being as agitated by this change as I had been about Miyazawa's departure, and his subsequent replacement, in Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. Really on the whole, the book looks as good as it ever had under Immonen's pen, and in some cases maybe even a bit better. Ultimately it upholds the originally artistic direction exceedingly well, with only limited changes to designs and visual flaws that seem more applicable to artistic growing pains (it is his first issue after all) than an actual change in art direction.

Scanning the pages heavily, I come up with very, very few real changes on the whole, and the ones I do come up to in many cases actually aren't broad enough to be anything worth spilling your milk over. The only major drawback to this issue that I've been able to come up with thus far, is 'un-detailed faces' (i.e. a character is positioned further back in a shot, so details are forgone on the face's design, ultimately looking oddly like those yellow smiley faces.) To be perfectly honest, these are pretty terrible, but I am willing to give Immonen the benefit of the doubt that he will turn those poor designs into something a little less goofy looking and into something a little more natural as he becomes more comfortable drawing for the book.

Beyond the growing pains, I think Immonen's going to do just fine. Certainly isn't the old issues, but I feel like I am capable of not letting the minor aesthetic changes hinder my enjoyment of the books (and between you guys, me, the rest of the internet, and the wall over there, I enjoy Ultimate Spider-Man quite well; I'd go so far as to say its one of my favorite books and right up there with Deadpool, which has been a constant top since I began reading.)

So I say to everyone who follows the books and is worrying about Immonen's transition: don't worry, he did far better than "Dave" (Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane) had for his first issue. And at least he didn't up and completely change every goddamn design like that fucker did. I admit it, I am still a bit sore about the whole thing, but I am getting better... I think.

TMNT (2007)
Three thousand years ago a warlord discovered a portal to another dimension, and in doing so set a curse upon himself, his brotherhood, and unleashed thirteen monsters of amazing power into our world. In the present, with the absence of a leader, the turtles have grown apart and believe their 'glory days' as being long behind them; animosity and irrationality grow steadily even after Leonardo's return, however when New York is put in danger the turtles must regroup in order to prevent the destruction of not just their home, but the world itself.

I am going to head into this with a serious statement that should explain everything better than my pandering: TMNT is so awesome that it made my DVD player explode, and the disc being the only surviving element of the destroyed unit. This prompted me to re-watch it several times on my Xbox, and oddly actually played, where as every other DVD I own wont on the unit; which must mean that not only is it a destructive force in its own right, but it also has a divine touch to restore playback for only itself on the console, and I also kinda figure what TMNT giveth it will taketh away, and explode the Xbox as well.

If that isn't enough, let me just say that while the story is a tad basic (listen to the commentary, while Kevin Munroe is kinda boring all alone, it gives a lot of insight into the process of the film that makes the concept a lot more interesting on the whole) but the execution is great on the whole. Before I continue, I am not a shill for Turtles, I hold the franchise up to a high standard and you couldn't pay me enough to review Turtles 2, or 3 better than 'decent' with a straight face; so with TMNT I expected nothing short of excellent, and what I got was exactly that.

It's clearly aimed to be acceptable for children to see, and it doesn't have the 'mature' language of the first film, but where that lacks, the film makes up for it with the pacing, and interactions; with the pacing you've got a film that moves quickly when it should and slows down just enough to 'set' a moment whether it's comedic or dramatic. The interactions are the real highlight, during the film there are two major-scale fight sequences, and not to spoil anything but one of them is 'inter-family', and not only is the choreography of the sequence (which is, by far, the most descriptive) fast, but it pulls no punches and the ambiance of the moment is put into full effect. It's like taking the first turtles film and stripping out the 'mature' themes, and replacing them with a far more focused and heightened sense of real emotional resonance.

...It's like watching your DVD player explode.

Moving backward just a bit, another absolutely important element of the film had to be the vocals. The turtles themselves aren't just poor parodies of the films voices, nor any of the other material voices. They clearly use the original materials as a template, using vocal styles and patterns to define their personalities, but the turtles themselves are as freshly voiced as I've heard them in a long, long time; the actors supplementing them are actually my favorite voices since the original cartoon series. I was incredibly apprehensive over whether or not they would hit the mark before the film went to theaters, but they really pulled it off for my mileage.

Now it's only appropriate to mention one of the greatest actors I can think of, and one of my personal favorites: Mako Iwamatsu. Better known as Uncle Iroh in Avatar: The Last Airbender, Mako's final role was that of TMNT, as the wise, reserved, and proud master Splinter. His participation and acting in the role was a particular highlight for me, and had been prior to even having seen the film. He was the definitive Splinter for this film; no other can I think of that could have done better.

Lastly, I would like to say that Patrick Stewart was an awesome choice for the character of Max Winters, and while I wasn't particularly taken with the casting of April (Sarah Michelle Gellar/Buffy is great, but I just wasn't sure she could live up to the role) it worked out well enough for me, and finally, Casey Jones is still the man.

Driving Lessons (2006)
When encouraged to get a job to feed his staunchly religious mothers drug addiction (in this case helping a strange old man by way of a place to say, food, clothes, etc.) 17-year-old Ben accepts a job to assist retired actress Evie Walton; initially finding her overbearing and difficult to deal with, but ultimately learns a lot from Evie, and eventually becomes confident enough to defy his less than preferable mother, who is even so detestable as to use him and driving lessons as an excuse to leave the house, and pursue adulterous activities.

I know it's a bit of an older one by now, having released in the US back in early July and Britain much earlier, but I decided to rent it as a whim the other day, and figured I would throw it into the list to round things out. For my mileage, I couldn't really get into the film; I tried, and I did enjoy Evie's role, but after the first sequence which featured a heavily comical scenes of Ben driving poorly, it seemed to dive far too much in religious belief, and I was probably just as irritated by that staunchness as Ben was, if not more. Religion is fine and dandy, but it almost seemed like they were rubbing the audience with it, like it was supposed to be incredibly relevant, when the film ultimately had little to do with the subject itself, and more the conflict that Ben was going through both in his personal life and his family life.

That's really just stating the obvious, and the film seems to become a tad absurd later on reaching the culmination when a clearly older woman later in the film approaches the boy, liquors him up, and sleeps with him... someone tell me how that fucking works out. Moral objections not withstanding (not like I have any, mind) it's difficult to see a socially retarded 17 year old being capable of playing that magic off, unless the woman's A.) Retarded herself, B.) A tramp, or C.) As desperate for affection as he is.

I can't knock the film too badly, because the acting was decent, and Julie Walters role was brilliant, but... the progression of events, seriously, it's like trying to make sense of multi-verse theory.

As a result of something that goc remarked earlier, I thought I would expand the articles as necessary to include notation over my picks out of the stuff I've gone over. I figure it couldn't hurt.

- Booster Gold #1

-- lost in thought

Tags: Column, Taking Notes, opinion, Booster Gold, The Flash, Ultimate Spider Man, TMNT, Driving Lessons

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