Thursday, November 26, 2015

Frank Miller Returns

Spoiler Alert! This post contains spoilers for the first installment of DK3: The Master Race

Well, we know who the Master Race is now.

Picking up the first installment (of eight - really, DC?) of The Master Race felt a little like dusting off my own Bat-suit after years of neglect. Luckily, Seattle has a comic book shop that's open until midnight, which works out for guys like me who spend most of their days doing this old-fashioned thing called working for a living.

I had a feeling The Master Race would start off on a more solid footing than DK2. And it does. It goes back to basics, and is more similar in general style to The Dark Knight Returns. But it also feels contemporary. The first sequence in the book addresses a hot topic: police violence against people of color. The story is told in a series of cell phone texts and snapshots.

The Master Race feels a bit melancholy, subdued. The first words out of the gate, in Bruce Wayne's grey thought box, is A good death? There's no such thing. Absent from the book are the brimming confidence and machismo that we typically associate with Miller's Batman. We see Ellen Yindel, drinking from a flask, wondering how she managed to screw it all up. In the book's most memorable image, we witness Superman frozen in ice, paralyzed by his own emotional depression.

His daughter, Lara, wants to help by setting free the Kryptonians of Kandor. This story is told in an Atom-sized insert comic, a creative and fun touch. Will freeing the ten million Kryptonians cure Superman of his depression? Or let loose the eponymous Master Race?

The issue concludes with Carrie Kelley going into custody, in a battle that feels set up. Her answer to Yindel - that Bruce Wayne is dead - is undoubtedly incorrect, but it's not clear whether she is realizes it. For all the good in the first issue of DK3, there's nothing great. But it's still early. The pieces are in place, but we don't yet know what the game is. Much more than its predecessors, DK3 feels like a mystery. And I hope it stays that way for a little while.

Rating: B

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Why Fishbach Will Win Survivor: Cambodia

This season of Survivor is called Second Chance, and there's an element here of The Dark Knight Returns. All the castaways are former players who didn't win. They have come back, some after a long hiatus. Some of these guys got close the first time, and have been waiting for a long time for their chance at redemption.

It's about halfway through the season now, and I think a favorite has emerged: Stephen Fishbach. 'Fish' might seem an unlikely favorite at this point, and indeed he's pretty far down in the most recent Survivor power rankings. Other contenders, like Jeremy, are stronger and have idols. But Fish is playing much harder than just about anyone else in the game, as he reveals in this emotional interview. Skip to 1:13 to hear his strategy, or 1:58 to see him melt down.

Fishbach is playing with everything he's got. He showed it in the latest episode, where he publicly articulated his theory that Survivor has 'evolved' past simple alliances into using 'voting blocs'. This ingenious political construct enables Fish to move seamlessly between the two major alliances on the beach. Fish is not a major physical or social threat, but he knows from his second-place showing in Tocantins how important it is to eliminate them. He will blindside the threats, and bring goats with him to slaughter at the final tribal council. When the dust settles, it will be clear to the jurors that Fish has been driving the game for a long time - and he will get his Survivor redemption.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Toast to Harley Quinn

Things are generational, my mother likes to say. And so it is with comic books. An amazing shift has transpired in this generation - the most popular Batman character is no longer the old man, or the Joker. She's Joker's sidekick - our lovable, dysfunctional, crazy-to-daisies Harley Quinn.

Harley wasn't invented in the comic pages. The character was created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, and first appeared in 1992 on a great little cartoon called Batman: The Animated Series. Since that time, the Harley Quinn meme has been steadily rising in the Batman rankings. She's headed for movie stardom, and ladies can't quite get enough of Harley Quinn cosplay.

Why is Harley so popular? It's a generational thing. This generation is more comfortable with edgy, weird, "alternative" characters. Harley's slightly on the goth side. She's not a girly-girl, but she can take care of herself. She's not quite pretty, somewhat sexy, and mainly funny. She's insecure, yet confident. She's weird, she's cool, and she's awkward, all at the same time. Like many of today's most popular characters, Harley fits the definition of an antihero.

Harley Quinn is very different from one of my favorite characters, Carrie Kelley. But I can understand how Harley's confusions, contradictions, and overall uniqueness make her a highly appealing character, particularly for female readers. We need more characters like that - females who resonate, who pack more than just a corset. In a medium in which the more things change, the more they stay the same, Harley Quinn is a breath of fresh air.