Saturday, February 07, 2009

New York Comicon 2009: Day 1 Report

One day is down at the comicon and so far, it’s gone pretty well. Being at the comicon all day is kind of weird, since time is really nebulous. There’s no windows, so one minute it’s 2:30 and the next it’s 6. Time dragged a bit early in the day, but zipped along at the end.

Today, I didn’t go to any panels, and didn’t really talk to any artists or anything. I spent most of my time sitting at the Sequart booth, talking up our books and just talking comics with some friends of Sequart. Final Crisis definitely remains the contentious topic, with lovers and haters all expressing their opinions in a discourse that features a lot more modified respectful feeling than you’ll typically see on the internet. I think it’s a testament to Grant’s work that he has created a major company event that is so personal and evokes such disparate emotions.

I also got to talk up my Invisibles book a bit to passers by. That book will be in the August previews, so it will come out sometime around October. I saw the preview copy today and it looks good.

Besides sitting at the booth, I wandered around and picked up the Morrison/Millar Aztek and Flash trades, filling in some of the remaining gaps in my Morrison knowledge. I also grabbed a whole bunch of New Mutants and a few 80s X-Men issues to fill in the gaps in my collection for a forthcoming project, on which more will be announced later. I’m hoping to leave the con with the entirety of X-Men/New Mutants/X-Factor and the associated minis from 1974-1991 in my possession, in various forms. Thanks to the dollar bin, that’d doable at not too much money. It’s great to pay cover price on 25 year old issues.

Speaking of Claremont, the biggest announcement out of the con for me was Claremont’s upcoming X-Men Forever series, which will pick up where his run on the book ended with X-Men #3. I believe at some point in my blogging on the series, I suggested a series like that, but who’d have thought it would really happen. Claremont of today is a very different writer than 1991 Claremont, but I’m still eager to see what he does with it, and how he plays off the story that he created, unencumbered by the influence of awful 90s concepts and Marvel editorial influence. It could be great, we’ll see soon enough. I’m hoping to talk to Claremont a bit tomorrow, so I’ll report back on that.

Also, I’m hoping to check out the panel on Torchwood tomorrow, and get an update on the next season of that show. Then, Sunday I’m looking forward to the Joss Whedon and Dollhouse panel, as well as the late con fire sale where I’m hoping to grab some $1 trades. We shall see.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

New York Comicon 2009

This weekend is one of my personal biggest events of the year, the New York Comicon. In the past, that may have been a nerdy thing to say, and it probably still is, but no shame in that. It’s great to spend a weekend at a place where you can have lengthy conversations about the minutiae of pop culture. Everything once in a while, you just need to be able to discuss the relative merits of the 170s vs. the 220s in Claremont’s X-Men run, or the nature of hypertime and the multiverse.

And, this year, the con won’t just be about wandering around spending money for me, I’ll be based at the Sequart table, where I’ll be promoting my upcoming book Our Sentence is Up, a compilation of all my Invisibles posts from this very blog, all edited and re-worked to be more coherent and better. I spent a ton of time revising it to get a solid draft ready for the con. The book won’t be released until Q3 this year, but I believe that a few copies of the draft version will be available at the booth, with comicon exclusive blank variant cover. Store this one in plastic, it’s putting your kids through college!

So, I’ll be there for most of the time, and floating around between various panels. The guest list is pretty amazing, even with the just dropped news that Grant Morrison wont’ be able to make it. Obviously he was my top guest to see, but Joss Whedon and the many others there will make up for it. I’ve met Whedon before, go here for my classic drunken Joss Whedon story.” I doubt I’ll get the sort of facetime I did then here, what with him likely being mobbed by his fans at all points, but he’s always a fun speaker. There’s a bunch of other interesting panels, the Torchwood one in particular I’m looking forward to.

I did two days at the con last year, and felt like I just barely saw it all, this year I’m doing all three days, but will have more business to do than last year. So, it should fly by. If you’re attending, stop by the Sequart booth, I should be there more often than not.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Battlestar Galactica: 'The Oath' (4x13)

I’ve seen this episode getting a lot of love from the online world, and I just don’t get it. I feel like I must be on the opposite wavelength from a lot of BSG fans, starting right from the miniseries, which I’d consider to be one of the series twin highpoints, along with the New Caprica arc, but most people seem to find lacking next to the series. This episode had all the flaws of recent serialized TV shows that have lengthy plot arcs, but no real change. Events happen, but they spin like suspended wheels, turning forever, but not really going anywhere.

After reaching Earth, it becomes unclear what the show is about. The thematic and narrative substance of this season has been the humans’ uneasy alliance with the cylons, and the changing nature of humanity/cylon in a world where the people closest to you can turn out to be the enemies you hate the most. That’s rich thematic territory, but it’s been handled really poorly here, with almost all the interesting parts of the story happening offscreen, while onscreen we’re treated to a succession of scenes that spin wheels before our return to the inevitable status quo, with the possible cost being the sacrifice of a minor character, not even a surprise when we’re in the show’s final season.

That may sound harsh, but it’s simply because the show can be so incredible, it’s frustrating to see an episode like this. There are characters I really care about on this show, Sharon, Baltar, Starbuck, Helo, D’anna, but most of the characters actually on the Galactica never grabbed me. I love Michael Hogan’s performance as Colonel Tigh and he’s always fun to watch, but when you put him and Adama in a situation like this, you know exactly what’s going to happen. You might not know the plot events specifically, but you’ll get some gruff masculine bonding, some barely audible mumbling and two old men acting bad ass. It’s fun to watch on some level, but I just don’t really care because we’ve been through so many similar conflicts before. There’s been so many attempted coups, mutinies and power struggles between these characters, this just feels like the same thing. We know that Roslin and Adama will get back in power, and we know that they’ll keep going forward on the Galactica because the show resolutely refuses to change from that status quo. This episode reminded me more than anything of 24. It’s the same story told on cycle, but the intensity of the performances can make you forget that.

That’s not a huge deal in and of itself, you could make the same argument of any show. The Sopranos basically repeated the same arc in seasons 2-5, new guy shows up in town, causes trouble, creates conflicted feelings in Tony then gets killed at the end of the season. But, we got a sense of real change in Tony. The point there wasn’t the narrative, it was about exploring the characters. But, the characters here just aren’t as complex and layered as the people on The Sopranos or the cast of Buffy. And, the ones who are, or at least had the potential to be conflicted and challenging in that way, are almost perversely left out of the center.

In the show’s first season, I was so wrapped up in what was going on with Sharon and her arc. But, since then very little interesting has been done with her. She’ll get a couple of scenes an episode, but no sustained arc or personal development. Baltar has been sacrificed at the altar of whatever the plot requires, here reverting to his cowardly old self after a seeming real conversion last season. Either arc is okay, but we’re not given enough time with him to really appreciate the distinction.

And, I don’t think the cylon metaphor really makes sense in this episode. It feels kind of like a Nazi soldier discovering they’re actually Jewish. It should be a shock to the person, and put them in the position of having to figure out who they actually are, if everything they believe conflicts with their own true identity. I don’t get why the Chief isn’t saying I’m the same person I was before, nothing’s changed, the conflict between label and person. For Tori, it seemed like being a cylon liberated her to do what she really wanted to do, her conscience was off, any action justified by her cylon programming. But, I think there’s a lot of missed opportunities in exploring what being a cylon means to these characters.

Ultimately, the things I love the show for are its more metaphysical and philosophical elements, and the surreal beautiful images it conjures. We’ve seen that recently. The Starbuck finds her own body sequence in the premiere was as haunting and beautiful as anything the show’s ever done, but since then, they’ve stuck with the people messing around doing stuff that doesn’t really matter.

You may say, what matters at all? This is just a TV show, time will pass either way, there is no tangible measure of progress. One man’s wheel spinning is another’s riveting action. And, there’s really no answer there. Art is subjective, there are elements in this show that enthrall me and others that I just don’t care about. And, the more I watched this episode, the less I cared. Where are the cylons, where’s an interesting story with Baltar? I hate to judge art on what I want it to be rather than what it is, but when you’ve got so many interesting elements on the bench, it’s frustrating to spend all this time on a story that just didn’t do it for me.