Ambidextrous: Untitled...

Michael Turner Passes Away

Like anyone else with a fully functioning soul, I was very sorry to hear about the sudden passing of artist Michael Turner. We never met personally, but like everyone else in comics, I was incredibly familiar with his work, and because of the ‘net, knew of his lengthy and courageous battle with cancer. Literally, right in the middle of my writing this, Newsarama has just posted even more accounts from people he’s touched and affected through his work and his strength. Without ever having the chance to speak to him, I’ve still managed to be inspired by him and proud of him over the years, while hearing of his relentless efforts to beat back cancer over and over again, all while continuing to do the thing he loved as much as humanly possible (and really, probably more than that). Comics have obviously lost a person of great conviction and great integrity and we are all poorer for it. Condolences to his friends and family. It’s obvious he was one of the good guys and will be greatly missed.

Sure news of his death gave this year’s Wizard World Chicago a very different feel, as things appeared to take on a much more somber and appreciative vibe once news traveled. I only made it a single day this year (Friday), but it sounds like moving the show further away from San Diego had a noticeable effect on both the guest list and the number of announcements. Know a lot of people prefer Chicago, because the comics aren’t drowning in the very geek culture they’ve inspired, and thankfully, the programming ideas are becoming a little more elaborate in scope and focus. I really loved the Bendis/Maleev DD retrospective and regretted missing the Bendis/Johns discussion that turned into the kind of inter-company lovefest that the ‘net would have you believe is impossible.

On a more personal note, since I’m now living in the city, instead of somewhat close to the city, taking the train made for the quickest and least aggravating con commute that I’ve ever experienced. If only getting to California was that easy, and I'm anxiously awaiting that show as everyone shows up and there’s never a shortage of cool things to do and see. Might have a more solid handle on Miranda Mercury business as well, which seemed much more imperative after making it to the theater to check out Mark Millar’s Wanted, which deserves every dollar it’s made thus far, and really far more than that.

This incredibly unapologetic action movie, made for and by people that enjoy such things, is yet another reason to get excited about the developing relationship between comic books and movies. Much has been said about how faithful it is to the source material (more on that later) but if you can’t understand how impossible it would’ve been to translate much of the book to a general audience, than none of us who do can probably explain it to you. What I found was a film that fully embraced the spirit and tone of the story, while making some cosmetic changes here and there that ultimately benefited the notion this was a movie influenced by, yet not actually, a comic book.

You will likely feel the shadow of The Matrix throughout, and I’m assuming this was intentional, as both movies share more than a few similarities. A future hero beaten into emotional submission by the world around him, the mysterious femme fatale that coaxes him out of it, and the well-mannered (at least, initially) mentor that explains to him how the world really works. There’s the incredibly interesting training sequence, and a series of action scenes that frantically builds to a crescendo until the one that just completely changes the game. If you ignored everything else that happened in the movie (and honestly, you kinda can’t) watching Wesley Gibson crash through a window and power down a lane, his arms and bullets spinning in all directions as he fires, reloads, steals an enemy’s gun, kills him with it and keeps going, makes everything worth it. Well, that and the awesome line that Morgan utters shortly after that, but seriously…people getting shot in the face never looked as beautiful or as necessary as it does here. Folks will be copying some of this material for years to come and they should, because it’s bold and exciting and original. What the ____ have you done lately, indeed…

Now before all this, I made sure to re-read my hardcover, as it’d been awhile, and because I really had a love-hate relationship with it when it was being serialized. I tended to love every other issue, while finding the other too excessive or just harsh for what I thought was little reason. Really though, that’s the entire point, and after some distance (meaning time to stop thinking those stupid thoughts) Wanted is clearly one of the best things Mark has ever written, and thanks to J.G. Jones, it’s damn pretty. I remember years back when Millar was actually asking the community at Millarworld for artists he should be working with and was quickly directed to Jones. But really, it was obvious that my previous disappointment stemmed from me consciously rebelling against what it was, and that all feels silly now. A bit like the assertion that filming a movie filled with costumed supervillains that killed off Superman and every other hero in the world could spark a successful mainstream movie franchise. This doesn’t even consider some of the more colorful characters in the book, like ____head, Johnny Two-Dicks, and ____wit, which are better left to this four-color world of ours.

The book is the book and the movie is the movie, and there’s much to enjoy in both. Give it a couple years and some viewings of the two-disc DVD and you’ll come around, too…

This week concludes with The Five, which is going to take on a slightly different form in the coming weeks. Instead of reviewing every one of my weekly selections, I’m going to simply list them at the close of every piece, and review only the one I dug the most. Which in some cases won’t be the last book read any given week. Was getting a little bored of the old format, and I think this will inject some spontaneity into the mix.

For instance…

5. Trinity #4 (Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza/Mark Bagley & Art Thibert/Mike Norton & Jerry Ordway)

4. Mighty Avengers #15 (Brian Michael Bendis/John Romita, Jr./Klaus Jansen & Tom Palmer)

3. The Immortal Iron Fist #16 (Matt Fraction/David Aja)

This barely edged out Final Crisis, but when it came down to it, I had to once again ask the question posed almost every time I finish an issue of this series…how in the hell is this book so good? I mean, the much-dissected event comic written by our resident genius and illustrated by the fantastic artist with the blockbuster movie in theaters--- that’s just supposed to be good, right? But a title focusing on the kung-fu billionaire exploits of a third-tier character like Iron Fist isn’t supposed to really turn into anything. Certainly not a book that quickly garnered a diehard fan base that reacted with widespread disappointment and revulsion at the notion that the creative team would be leaving the book. The icons look easy to do---everyone knows them, their stories, and their convoluted histories. Iron Fist was a character few people cared about, now he’s up for an Eisner award, and just might deserve it.

Fraction skillfully wraps things up all by himself with a story that both advances and resolves every plot thread in he and Brubaker’s acclaimed run. The future of his corporation is addressed, the newfound purpose for the Immortal Weapons is revealed, the relationship with Misty Knight given new life, the Heroes for Hire reunite once more, and Danny makes a terrible discovery that makes this birthday the most important one he’s ever had. It’s like Fraction is writing this beautifully crafted goodbye letter that reminds you of everything you enjoyed in the first place, while teasing things you might never get to see. I’m more than willing to give the next guys a decent shot, but the door is closed in a way that tells you things will never be the same again.

Here’s hoping that Fraction and Brubaker next team with Aja on a Heroes for Hire revival, though Bendis probably wouldn’t allow them unsupervised use of Luke Cage, given his obvious crush. I suppose he could come along too, and yes, I realize I’m in complete and total denial here, but come on…you read this right? How is it fair it ends like that…?

2. New Avengers #42 (Brian Michael Bendis/Jimmy Cheung/John Dell)

1. Final Crisis #2 (Grant Morrison/J.G. Jones)

Next week: What’s in The Green Folder and how does it relate to the writer I am today?

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