Tag Archives: Frank Quitely

Review: Flex Mentallo Man of Muscle Mystery Deluxe Hardcover

This is an odd one for me.  I did not like the Grant Morrison Doom Patrol, and had never read Flex Mentallo when it originally ran as a 4 issue limited series in 1996.  This was a book that was completely off my radar.  But in recent years I have found a great deal of Morrison’s writing very much to my liking, and decided to give this one a try.  Everyone else seemed to know something I didn’t.  “What do you mean, you have not read it?”, is the response I have gotten enough to tell me that I needed to read it.

This is clearly one of those books that struck something in the readers of the day, more than now I think.  Not to say it isn’t good, because that is not the case.  This is a good book.  It just isn’t that much of a revelation.  Is this because much of it has been copied and redone since?  That may be the case here, as Morrison is an often copied writer.  It just seemed that much of it was trite, had a feeling of “seen that” and was a book more suited to describe what is possible in the monthly format of comics than a truly great story.

Flex Mentallo was created by Morrison for the Doom Patrol and quickly developed a following.  This was enough for Vertigo to take a chance on a limited series and this book is very much in its own continuity, quite apart from the Doom Patrol.  The DCU is only hinted at and more often referred to in metaphor and allegory.  Overall, this is a pretty trippy book.  There is a lot of meta referencing about a universe that we are all supposed to know about.  Much of what is here can be seen as the seeds of Morrison’s book, Supergods, and it is clear the ideas that would form that books were being fleshed out here.  The metaphor that we lost our old Gods and created super heroes, is familiar enough.  He then goes into the comics as a medium and develops the idea further; that after we created the new characters as surrogate Gods, we gave them reality, only to abandon them again at another point to pure fiction.  The line here between the Gods of our world and the heroes of this book is blurred.  This is done very purposefully and is to illustrate the connections between our Gods and our fiction;  how we lost one only to replace it with the other, then found them intruding into the “real” world.

The art here is nothing short of stunning.  Frank Quietly has always been someone worth watching.  His art while highly stylized, is always full if life and vigor.  Fun and silly in many ways, but not without real power and force.  The book is really a fine example of some of his best work.

There is another issue with this collection. It is recolored.  I think the book looks great.  It has a realism and visual quality that sets it apart from much of what I have seen in catalog reprints lately.  However, there are fans that are not so happy.  I can sympathize, but I have also looked at the original pages side by side online.  Had this volume retained the fun psychedelic colors of the original comic, it would look terrible.  Those colors, while very well suited to the comic book format, would not look right on this paper stock.  What worked on the flat crappy paper of the day, needed a different touch in this modern volume.  There is also the thought that DC wanted to appeal to more than just the old fans of this book.  Newer readers might have found the look of the old color off-putting.

While a lot has been made about the supposed legal issues that kept this book out of print until now, I think much of this is more in the area of urban legend than actual fact.  In any event, this book is here for fans old and new.  While it may not resonate with new readers, the old fans of the book should be well pleased.

 

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Review: All Star Superman

This is a review I had been putting off.  I didn’t think I could be objective about the DC animated film based on the 12 issue Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely masterpiece.  I have never been much more than a casual Superman fan.  With the notable exception of the first Christopher Reeve film, my exposure and interest was limited.  But then a few years ago I started getting interested in a broader range of stuff, and for me, that meant getting back into the super hero books.  Through most of the 90’s I really only read indie books.  Sandman had kept me about as mainstream as I was going to be for a while. So when I wanted to get back in, I went more DC than Marvel, as I had grown up more Marvel and had a pre conceived notion and was sure I would be disappointed by what I saw.  I was, but that is another story.

Among the DC books I now read are the occasional Superman book.  But what really made me love the character was All Star Superman.  I felt after reading the book, that would be as good as it got for Big Blue, and mostly that has been the case.  There have been some gems, but this is still the high point for the blue tights in the last decade or so.  That is why I thought I might want to hold off on the review of the movie.  Would I be able to stay focused and objective?  Nope.  But then I watched the movie with the wife.  She didn’t really think all that highly of it and her coolness allowed me to step back and justify those things I though praiseworthy, and look with a more critical eye on those aspects that were less than great.


These two images are a good example of the differences between the movie and it’s source material.  The film is glossy and reasonably well produced, but far from the best that DC has so far to offer us, while the book has much more beneath the surface.  Obviously, the film had to omit some parts of the story, but to be honest, I have come to agree with the wife on this, the film is very disjointed and staccato.  While episodic tends to suit a comic (although it reads even better as a complete story in this case) a 88 minute movie needs more cohesion.  You could really feel where the story from each issue of the book ended and the next one began.  Maybe broken up by commercials that would work, but not like this.  Maybe for a younger fan this would work as simple entertainment, but ultimately this was a major drawback on repeated viewings.  There is a fair bit to like though.  The quality of the animation is decent if not top-notch.  At times it looks a little off-model and rushed.  The picture and sound are very nice quality, particularly on Blu ray.

What hurts the film most is that in making it fit in the prescribed 88ish minutes (and i have to say, DC needs to start thinking outside this particular box) they have removed some of the things that give the book its emotional core.  The first and most glaring edit, is almost all of the Smallville sequence.  Pared down to a short graveyard scene, nearly every bit of the heart of the original has been lost as most of it was in this sequence of story events.  While at first glance I can see why it was removed, on further reflection, I find it difficult to believe that as talented a screenwriter as Dwayne McDuffie (in his final screen credit, I believe-feel free to correct me on that) could not have found a way to put that into the film in such a way that the pacing would not have been hurt.  It certainly needed to be more fleshed out in the screenplay, and that, I think, would have made this a better film.  Fan service is nice, and there are lots of that geeky glow here, but we still need substance.  You cannot live on cookies alone (I know, I’ve tried), sometimes you need a real meal.  There are subtleties in the movie that I didn’t catch in the book.  The mention by Lois that the Superman of the year 85,000 looks like her father, is a nice hint that didn’t make the book at all.  And the Fortress of Solitude key under the mat gag, works much better in the film.

Another omission is the entire Bizarro World section.  While not as great a loss to the emotion or the story structure, it was a lot of fun in the book, and I do miss it a little bit here.  The scenes with Lex Luthor are not as strong as in the book, with the exception of the climax of the film, and the Jimmy Olsen scenes worked well and in some cases were actually funnier.  So all in all, the little things are a wash.

The ending will most likely trouble some viewers that do not realize that these DC movies, like most of the stories they come from, are not “in continuity” with the rest of the DCU, and so my find the end a bit of a downer.  the reason for this story being that way was that it was designed to be a complete and self-contained story of the Man of Steel, and viewed as that, it works pretty well.  Better in the book though.

I loved the book.  I really did.  I liked the movie more on the first viewing than on the repeated ones.  I still like it, and it is a great geek fest, but it is not the kind of thing that casual fans, especially those that have not read the source material are likely to get much out of.  Fans of the original book will enjoy the story coming to life, flawed though it is, but most others will want to give it a miss.  Sad to say, but I don’t think that a newcomer to this story will enjoy the movie anywhere near as much as the book.  Go buy the book and rent this.

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