Tomato here. Now, if you’ve been with us for a while now, you know doubt remember our blood-curdling anger at Brian Michael Bendis’ “New Avengers” #1 and#2. Sure, it wasn’t terrible, in the truest sense of the word, but we all agreed that it was boring, that it was confusing, and that you could find better pacing and dialogue in a Pop Tarts commercial. It left no impact on us whatsoever. In fact, it made so little of an impression on me that I completely forgot that it even existed.
That is, until this morning, when an even WORSE comic reared its ugly head.
I honestly have no idea which inhumane beast of nature brought this terrible comic back into my head. It was from my rookie days, when I was first getting into comics. I was, bluntly, a sucker. The only gauges of quality, the only road-maps I had to guide me towards good comics, were the titles and the characters on the covers. I wasn’t completely clueless towards comics, by any means. I knew Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Flash, Spider-Man, the X-Men. You get the idea. If I didn’t know the stories themselves, at least I knew the characters. If I didn’t know the writer or the artist, at least I knew the one in the cape. So, when I saw a kick-butt Wolverine, grinding glistening adamantium claws over a New York City freeway, I instantly grabbed the first volume of Ultimate X-Men off of the library’s shelf.
Screw you, self. SCREW YOU.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s PLENTY of things in this comic that make it bad. The dialogue is crappy, the plotting is inane, and the fight scenes from Power Rangers make more sense compared to these ones. But, all of those things serve only to make this comic bad. There’s one thing in this comic, one sole factor, that causes it to break the threshold of “bad” and propel straight into the area of “unabashedly horrible”. Any guesses?
No? OK, I’ll tell you. This comic, ladies and gentlemen, isn’t even a comic at all. It’s a movie trying to BE a comic.
I’m dead serious. All of the elements of your typical summer popcorn flick are here. You’ve got your super-decompressed stories, where characters spend 95% of the time talking about nothing in particular, with acres of padding in-between. You’ve got murky, dark, and muddied art, shadows upon shadows. Every other scene contains an explosion or a chase, illustrated in two-page spreads that are dull and confusing. Readers are expected to not only instantly understand what can sometimes be a dense, compacted set-up, but to empathize with it.
But, here’s the thing. A sizable sweep of summer action movies have all of these above elements, and yet are still good. They can get away with kinetic, sprawling, and sometimes complex action scenes and special effects, because you can actually see the frame-to-frame motion on screen. Your eyes are drawn to, and entertained by, the movement on screen.
Hey, do you want to know a weird thing about comics? They don’t do that.
That’s the problem here. In comics, structurally, there’s no motion. A comic is composed of panels, a group of static, still images put on a page. Movies, on the other hand, have a flowing, continuous group of shots that, y’know, MOVE. As such, a movie does not work as a comic without serious tweaking, and a comic does not work as a movie without alterations, either. If you try to fit a blockbuster cinematic plot into a comic, you’re trying to fit a square peg in a round hole It won’t work. And yet, we have literally HUNDREDS of widescreen, action-packed, blockbuster “cine-comics” (trademark) out there today.
Now, with all of that said, I’m not saying that action scenes shouldn’t be done in comics. Nor am I saying, in fact, that there’ve been no successful comic-to-screen or screen-to-comic adaptations. For every Batman and Robin, there’s a Dark Knight. What I AM saying is that a significant percentage of the comics I consider failures, some of which are generally considered failures, like the first two up above, stem primarily from a critical failure of the creators of the story to cohesively understand the medium they work in: comics. And that makes cine-comics, such as New Avengers and Ultimate X-Men, only “ultimate” at doing one thing: being pointless.
See you next week!
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