Hey howdy hey, friends! Fun-Size Fan-Thing welcomes you back for another weird and wonderful installment of stream-of-consciousness writing; covering comics, movies, television, and whatever else happens to be on my mind. Now, in past installments I’ve been pretty adamant about keeping each section to about a hundred words, as I have an annoying tendency to ramble on in these things. This time around though, I thought I might try waiving the word limit, mainly because I’m curious to see what happens. It may end up being a one-off, I don’t know, but I thought I’d give it a shot. Don’t worry though, I’m not gonna suddenly start dumping thousand-word essays on you; I’m just stretching my legs a bit. Now that we’ve got the preamble covered, what sort of pop culture nonsense did I take in this week?
— CREDITS —
LETTERING BY Crank!
COLORING BY Matt Wilson
ART BY Daniee Orlandini & Giuseppe Camuncoli
WRITTEN BY Charles Soule & Scott Snyder
PRODUCTION & DESIGN BY Ryan Brewer
LOGO DESIGN BY Mauro Corradini
EDITED BY Will Dennis
PUBLISHED BY Image Comics
IMAGE SOURCE: Undiscovered Country #1 Cover by Giuseppe Camuncoli [Image Comics]
Imagine for a moment, what would happen if America suddenly decided to close their borders and cut themselves off from the rest of the world. Sounds interesting, right? As far as story hooks go, the idea of America going full-on Alcatraz is undeniably intriguing, even if you’re not that big into following the current geopolitical “scene”. Then again, this wouldn’t be the first comic I read that boasted a clever premise but stumbled in the execution. With that in mind, do I think Undiscovered Country has the potential to go the distance? Let’s see what we’ve got to work with so far.
The first issue picks up thirty years after America has “gone dark”, showing us how the rest of the world has moved on in its absence. Unfortunately, things are looking rather grim; a deadly virus is currently spreading like wildfire and killing virtually every person who comes into contact with it. Facing the very real possibility of global extinction, a small team of experts accepts a seemingly benign invitation from the United States to enter their lands and obtain a cure. And hey, if things go well enough, maybe America can start being a part of the world again.
Is this offer of salvation too good to be true? Well, I wouldn’t want to give anything away, but I did use the words “seemingly benign”, so yeah, that definitely doesn’t bode well.
IMAGE SOURCE: Undiscovered Country #1 [Image Comics]
In all seriousness, I think this comic shows a lot of promise. Having two critically-acclaimed comic book veterans like Charles Soule and Scott Snyder as co-writers certainly inspires confidence. My only real nitpick would be that the first issue doesn’t have quite enough time to flesh out the characters, but with the amount of set-up that has to be covered, it’s an easy problem to forgive. In any case, co-artists Daniele Orlandini and Giuseppe Camuncoli do a bang-up job capturing the characters emotions as they react to this bizarre new world, and their more grounded art style makes the wilder elements pop even more. All that plus the incredibly talented Matt Wilson on colors makes this one of the better looking books on the stands this week.
Overall, I’d say this issue does exactly what an introduction should: covering the audience on the basics without overwhelming them in exposition or world-building. If the last two pages are any indication, things are about to get a lot crazier (can you say “road trip”?), for better or for worse. Based on what we have now though, I feel very comfortable giving Undiscovered Country #1 the old seal of approval.
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STARRING Roman Griffin Davis, Thomas McKenzie, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johannson, et al.
MUSIC BY Michael Giacchino
CINEMATOGRAPHY BY Mihai Mălaimare Jr.
EDITED BY Tom Eagles
SCREENPLAY BY Taika Waititi
PRODUCED BY Chelsea Winstanley, Carthew Neal, & Taika Waititi
DIRECTED BY Taika Waititi
DISTRIBUTED BY Fox Searchlight Pictures
BASED ON THE NOVEL CAGING SKIES BY Christine Leunens
IMAGE SOURCE: Vanity Fair
Whether you’re a fan of his work or not, you’ve got to give director Taika Waititi this: he is not content to play it safe. After making a Thor movie that was both critically lauded and massively profitable, he could have easily coasted off his mainstream success for another movie or two. He could have decided to stick with something safer, maybe do one of those live-action Disney remakes that are so inexplicably profitable these days. Instead, his very next film is a black comedy centered on a ten-year-old German boy in the 1940’s who dreams of being a Nazi. Oh, and his best friend is an imaginary Adolf Hitler, a role in which Waititi has decided to cast…himself. I don’t care where you’re from or what your film background is, that’s a ballsy move.
I went into this movie with pretty high expectations and personally? I was not disappointed. Although I don’t believe this will dismount Hunt For The Wilderpeople from the top of my personal “Best Of Taika Waititi” list, I would say JoJo Rabbit is a worthy addition to his filmography. The cast in particular is one of the strongest ensembles I’ve seen in quite a while; off the top of my head I can’t think of a single performance that went on for too long or felt out of place. Side-note: this is the third time I’ve seen Sam Rockwell play a Racist With A Heart of Gold in the last few years. I mean he’s good in that role, but that’s odd, right?
Now I’d be remiss if I didn’t warn you ahead of time that while comedic elements are prevalent — with this particular director at the helm, how could there not be? — JoJo does not shy away from dealing with some macabre subject matter. There was one particularly shocking scene in this film involving JoJo and a pair of shoes that won’t be leaving my mind anytime soon. To put it simply, don’t go in expecting another Thor: Ragnarok, where the darker moments didn’t have much time to register (#JusticeForTheWarriorsThree).
Inevitably with this type of subject matter there’s always going to be a certain amount of controversy. Does it go too far? Does it not go far enough? Ultimately I invite you see JoJo Rabbit and decide for yourself, and hey, if it’s not for you then it’s not for you. Like what you like, you know?
JoJo Rabbit is rated PG-13
for mature thematic content, some disturbing images, violence, and language
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LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES
LETTERING BY Dave Sharpe
COLORING BY Jordie Bellaire
INKS BY Wade Von Grawbadger & Ryan Sook
PENCILS BY Ryan Sook
SCRIPT BY Brian Michael Bendis
EDITED BY Brian Cunningham & Brittany Holzherr
PUBLISHED BY DC Comics
Superboy created by Jerry Siegel, by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel Family
IMAGE SOURCE: Legion of Super-Heroes #1 Cover by Ryan Sook [DC Comics]
This week the heroes of the 31st century flew once more in their latest ongoing series, Legion of Super-Heroes, this time spearheaded by talented artist Ryan Sook and current writer of Superman (and about a half dozen other titles), Brian Michael Bendis. With the exception of the excellent story “Superman & The Legion of Super-Heroes” by Gary Frank and Geoff Johns, I haven’t had much interest in following this particular team, although I’ve certainly tried over the years. With a top-tier creative team at the helm, plus the fan-favorite character Jonathan Kent/”Superboy” joining the cast, could this combination end up being the winning formula that finally converts me to full-blown Legion fandom? Well, I don’t know that I’d go that far, but I’d say it’s a step in the right direction.
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that Legion of Super-Heroes #1 is packed to the brim with some seriously big concepts. In addition to introducing readers to a brand new setting and a fascinating “MacGuffin” for the heroes to protect, this first issue also has a team roster somewhere in the ballpark of thirty “Legionnaires”. While I was initially nervous about Bendis’ choice to bring Jon Kent into the future, just months after aging him into teen-hood in the pages of Superman, it’s hard to deny this issue benefits from having a familiar face. Serving as the best kind of audience surrogate, Jon is nervous and a bit overwhelmed, but above all else he is genuinely excited to be there. That positivity makes a big difference; whether or not comic book creators are aware of it, getting readers invested is a lot easier when the main character is an active part of the story and not just a passive onlooker to have other characters feed exposition to.
IMAGE SOURCE: Legion of Super-Heroes #1 [DC Comics]
Of course it also helps if your cast of characters has their own distinct voices, and with thirty-plus names and faces that’s going to be my biggest concern going forward. I’m giving this first issue a bit more slack since it’s primarily greetings at this point, but hopefully there’s room for some character growth in the future. And there’s reason to hope Bendis’ knows what he’s doing; there’s a legitimately clever piece of technology introduced here called the “Frichtman Tag” that helps give Superboy and the readers a quick snapshot of who some of the characters are — names, powers, planet of origin, etc. Unfortunately, the cleverness factor is muted somewhat by the awkward placement of the “tags” themselves. Some have to be read backwards to make out what they’re saying, while others are covered up by the very characters they’re trying to brief the viewer on. Intentional choice, or a post-production error that’ll be fixed for the trade? You decide!
What definitely doesn’t need fixing though is the amazing artwork by Ryan Sook, Wade Von Grawbadger, and Jordie Bellaire. The line-work on the characters and the backgrounds is tight and professional, a “pristine” world befitting the bright future of the 31st century. It also doesn’t hurt that Sook has killed it on the character designs; each of the Legionnaires has a look that is bright, colorful, and visually distinctive from the others. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that if DC Comics ever decided to release an collection made up solely of Legion of Super-Heroes artwork I would buy that up in a heartbeat.
Enough about hypothetical books though, the real question is whether or not I think Legion of Super-Heroes #1 is worth your hard-earned cash. I have to admit it’s a tough call, but when I weigh the pros and cons I have a lot more stuff in the “genuinely good” column and mostly a lot of nitpicks in the “bad”. It may be a bit rough around the edges, but if you’re looking for a solid entry point into the Legion universe then it may just be time to hop on board.
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DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME
ALTERNATIVE TITLE: “WHYYYYYY”
IMAGE SOURCE: Philadelphia Inquirer
If you live in the United States, or if you happened to be visiting in the last week, there’s a strong possibility you did a little time traveling yourself (how’s that for a segue?). Last Sunday, myself and many others participated in that most time-honored and mandatory of winter traditions: moving the clocks back an hour for Daylight Savings Time. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a firm proponent of adding an extra hour of sleep to my morning — heavens know I could use it — but the fact of the matter is that it’s…kind of unnecessary?
For the first twenty-odd years of my life I didn’t even know the reason why we were turning the clocks back, and I never had much interest into digging further. Fortunately we live in an Age of YouTube, where there’s a “how to” and a “history of” video for everything under the sun. If you’re curious and have about three minutes to kill — I assume you do if you’re reading my blog — I’d recommend checking out this report by comedian John Oliver and the Last Week Tonight team, appropriately titled “Daylight Savings Time: How Is This Still A Thing?”. I guarantee you it’ll be more fun and a better use of your time than manually resetting every clock in your house.
IN CLOSING, REMEMBER: IT’S OKAY TO BE A WORK IN PROGRESS
Regrettably that’s pretty much all the time I have for this week; Real Life Stuff has to take precedence for a while, as it is wont to do. I’m not gonna pretend it doesn’t bother me that I couldn’t put aside more time to get some writing in, but I’ve got to remind myself that even if I didn’t get everything I wanted done I still made some real progress this week. I don’t know about you but taking the hundred word limit away really made it feel like my words could breathe a bit more, you know? I probably could have covered a few more topics if I was still on the old system, but I’m glad I decided to give it a shot, for better or worse.
If the point of Fun-Size is to push me outside my comfort zone, then I’d say I’m doing a pretty good job. With that in mind, I guess my advice to you this week is to focus on the small victories. Remember that nobody is expected to magically improve all at once; it’s a constant process that you have to work at every day. So, no matter what your personal long-term goals are — whether you’re trying to write more or eat less or learn a second language — all you really need to be is a little bit better than you were yesterday, and you’ll already be a winner.
Take it easy, Champ; I’ll see you here next week.