“The Losers:” The Trailer’s Finally Here

<a href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-us&#038;from=customplayer_en-us_movies_movietrailershub&#038;fg=MsnEntertainment_MoviesTrailersGP2_a&#038;vid=1b9d070f-aff2-47f6-8a86-9b2b44ec4fc6" target="_new" title="'The Losers' Exclusive Look">Video: &#8216;The Losers&#8217; Exclusive Look</a>

…Hm. I bought the TPB Wednesday night and intend to crack it open today (I’m laid up at home), so I can’t really say how faithful this is to Andy Diggle and Jock’s original work. (I’m sure more than one of you can in the comments, though!) What I can say is that I dig the Ocean’s Eleven-gone-paramilitary vibe, I like the production design, and the VFX house behind it appears to be Vancouver-based Image Engine, who blew everyone away with District 9 last summer. Plus, Peter Berg wrote the screenplay, and he’s well-known for his work as both actor and director in action films likeThe Kingdom.

I’ll be curious to see how this fares– I want it to do well, but it’s the early contender in a summer of paramilitary-hijinks and comics-adaptation films like Joe Carnahan’s A-Team remake (starring Liam Neeson and slated for June 11th), July’s action-comedy Knight and Day (I’m dubious, it’s Tom Cruise), the Jonah Hex movie (soundtrack by Mastodon!), and the 800-pound gorilla that is Iron Man 2. Hopefully, The Losers will be buoyed by Zoe Saldana’s post-Avatar and Trek star power– she has a lead role as the cunning and dangerous Aisha, and she’s always a pleasure to watch.

The Losers debuts April 9th.

Review: Madame Xanadu #19

Madame Xanadu 19 cover by Hadley and Friend.

Caution: Huffing Aqua Net may cause uncontrollable spells of nymphs and pixies.

“Broken House of Cards, Chapter Four: Squabbles and Spells”

Writer: Matt Wagner
Penciler: Joëlle Jones
Inker: David Hahn
Colorist: Lee Loughbridge
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover: Amy Reeder Hadley and Richard Friend

Slim pickings this week on my end; I handed Fantastic Four off to Chad when we got home, which left me with New Avengers and this book. I don’t feel like I have enough backplot to tackle New Avengers, so that leaves me with Madame X. (I also have the omnibus Losers TPB, but I’ve got to get to bed sometime tonight.)

Over the last few years, Matt Wagner’s fallen into the role of secret chronicler of the DC Universe. He filled in Bruce Wayne’s early adventuring career with Batman and the Monster Men and Batman and the Mad Monk, both of which occur in the space of time before the introduction of the Joker and the further solidification of Batman’s rogues’ gallery. Wesley Dodds and Dian Belmont had their pre-JSA adventures enumerated in Sandman Mystery Theatre. If there’s a space of a year, or a few years, where Wagner can think of a good spate of adventures for someone, chances are he’ll run with it.

Madame Xanadu takes the chronicler concept a step further, giving Nimue free reign to aid and abet heroes across the entire span of DC history. Sure, there’s a romantic subplot with the Phantom Stranger every couple hundred years, but Nimue’s primary arc is about how she copes with being one of the last ageless survivors of the Arthurian tragedy.

Of course, the book wouldn’t work if all Nimue ever faced were borrowed adversaries and her own problems with the Stranger, and this issue digs into the Madame’s own history with her siblings. Morganna is Nimue’s archfoe, her shadow sister, and their rivalry sets the backdrop for the entire book. They’re an epic-level Goofus and Gallant; if Nimue had an orange, she’d share it with you, but Morganna would always steal the last apple. Where Nimue gravitates to the wise-woman/ shamaness role, Morganna tends to work woe in the more active tradition of Old English and Norse spae-craft, causing mayhem and capriciously striking people dead.

Plot-wise, this issue isn’t anything we didn’t see in the first arc of Madame Xanadu; it recaps Nimue and Morganna’s early adolescence in Avalon and their constant conflicts. However, it does so beautifully. Joëlle Jones (also known for her work on Dr. Horrible at Dark Horse) handles the art deftly, lending the story a Classical touch. Inker David Hahn (Murderland, Fables) never overwhelms the linework, keeping everything crisp and well-defined. The color palette from Lee Loughridge (who doesn’t seem to have a central website of his own, more’s the pity) is sylvan and restrained, a striking contrast to the bright colors of the ongoing 1950s plot from last issue. Jared Fletcher busts out the proper medieval feel for the lettering, which just makes the issue seem like an actual tattered codex from the DCU’s past. Really nice work all around by the art team, and, well, Wagner writing high fantasy is Wagner writing high fantasy– you either love it, like I do, or you find it a bit on the purple-prose side of things. For the first part of a recap two-parter, this book is pretty solid in design and concept.

Linguistic Adventures with Madame Xanadu!

Madame Xanadu summoning will-o-wisps.

"Look at her æsc, Becky. It's just so... ligated."

Madame Xanadu #19 comes out this week, which reminded me that I’ve long meant to get my linguistic freak on, haul out my grimoires, and provide some insight into my favorite fortunetelling wood nymph’s spellcasting technique.

Unlike, say, Zatanna or Bastard John, Madame X eschews modern English when she needs to throw down some sorcery. As one might expect of a mage who did most of her learning in the Arthurian era, she defaults to Old English— not the malt liquor, but the language of the Anglo-Saxons, common from the 5th to the 12th centuries.

Luckily for us, Old English is pretty exhaustively documented in resources like An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary by Joseph Bosworth and, later, T. Northcote Toller. Like some sort of Old English Tobin’s Spirit Guide, it’s often just called “Bosworth and Toller.” To compile the glossary below, I used Bosworth and Toller, supplementing it with Wiktionary‘s Old English resources and some references from Clark-Hall’s A Concise Anglo-Saxon dictionary.

If you were looking to follow along in Madame Xanadu, I’d suggest the online Bosworth and Toller; if you’d rather have a book beside you to reference while you read, use Clark-Hall, it’s only ten bucks and it covers most of the major vocabulary.

Anyway! The glossary of Madame Xanadu’s Anglo-Saxon spellcasting terms!

ábelpecian: Anyone? I’ve got nothing, not in Bosworth and Toller and not in Wiktionary, and not in Hall and Merrit.

áblindan: “To blind.”

áfeorsian: “To expel.”

ástencan: “To scatter.”

áswefecian: “To extirpate.”

atemian: “To subdue.”

áwærian ingemynd: “To avoid memory;” in this case, to escape being remembered by onlookers.

áworpennes ísenbend: “Rejection of iron bondage,” sort of an “Accio GTFO!”

cierran: “To turn,” I think. (cf. undercierran, “to subvert”)

clænsung: “A cleansing; a chastening.”

dæges: “daily.”

fisc hléapettan: “fish, leap up”

Madame Xanadu summons fish.

You'll think you're lookin' at Aquaman: Nimue summons fisc to the disc.

geanhweórfa: Actually geánhweorfan, “to turn again or return.”

geósceaftgást andswaru: “Dire spirit, answer.”

hæl abeódan: An evocation of health and well-being.

ingefeallan: “To declare or reveal.” Sometimes seen as ingefællan, which I think is a misspelling. I, personally, would not want to be the letterer on this book.

lædan néosan: “To seek out new roads.”

Madame Xanadu summons a questing orb.

For the rest of us, there's an app for that.

lígbryne geweald: “Burn with the power of flame.” (Actually spelled lígbyrne.)

lígetræsc: “Lightning,” or, in this case, will-o-the-wisps. (Actually líg-ræsc.)

niehst: “nearest”

níwia: No clue. Not in the dictionaries I’m using. Anyone?

slápian: An evocation of sleep. To make sleepy.

ymbsprecan neódfreón: “Speak earnestly and freely.” This is a super-compound phrase and you’ll have to look up the individual bits in Bosworth and Toller.

yppan: “bring forth”

(Mad props to Chris “Slarti” Pinard for providing images for this post.)

Review: Joe the Barbarian #1

Joe the Barbarian #1 (cover by Sean Murphy)

“chapter 1: hypo”

Writer/Creator: Grant Morrison
Artist: Sean Murphy
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Todd Klein

Before I get into the meat of Joe the Barbarian, there’s a little personal history you need to understand why this comic hit close to home for me. I’m a type-2 diabetic (the kind that doesn’t usually require insulin), the third generation of same in my family. The genetics are pretty clear-cut; there are things I probably could’ve done differently to put it off a few years, maybe even more than a few, but it was eventually going to catch me. Dealing with it as an adult has been challenging at times, but there’s at least a little bit of perspective that age brings that helps offset things some.

It’s hard to imagine being so fundamentally different as a teenager, though. I only know the edges of it, from the outside looking in. I had a friend or two back then who were type-1 diabetics. It wasn’t something you brought up or pointed out in those days. They had enough going on that they didn’t want to people to make a point of treating them differently. It was the sort of thing the mothers would communicate among themselves, through back channels. If there was a birthday party, diet soda would suddenly appear on the drinks table, and no fuss would be made.

Joe Manson’s troubles, at first, seem only superficially connected to the plight of the chronically-ill child. He’s a socially awkward artist, an introspective teenager plagued not only by stereotypical bullies, but by his own awareness that the bullying just makes him a stereotype as well. He has no adult role models to speak of, either; his father, a career military type, was killed in action (the script hints that it was in the Middle East, but nothing is explicitly said).

Of course, as if by some cosmic law, someone so introverted must conversely have a rich inner life. I’d say it’s a cliche, but I’d also be lying if I said it wasn’t a true cliche. It’s the place where so much of comics wells from, after all. Joe is no different, and in an amusingly anachronistic touch, his mid-teens tastes really don’t stray too far from ones that will be familiar to any of us in our late thirties. Joe owns a classic Star Wars Landspeeder toy (a particular childhood favorite of mine, too) and a smattering of other familiar items. Sean Murphy has a bit in the backmatter explaining that he made this consciously retro choice because no one told him he couldn’t; he thought it would be interesting to play off his own childhood nostalgia. (That being said on the artistic end, I still think the appearance of Batman was specifically aimed to play on on Grant’s reputation.) After that, it was mostly happy accident that Morrison’s script was able to cohere itself around those images. I don’t think the visual references would distract a younger reader unfamiliar with the toys of the 1970s, but at the same time, the art reinforces older readers’ connection to Joe’s world.

Morrison doesn’t provide any direct evidence of Joe’s diabetes until the issue is almost over, but the clues are there if you know what to look for. As someone who has been dealing with diabetes for four years now, there’s a little more weight to the scene where Joe’s mother reminds him about the candy bar she packed. When the alpha bully later takes it away before he’s had a chance to eat it, there’s a subtle foreboding– those of us who have been there know what’s inevitably coming down the line, even if it’s not set out in the script yet.

Sean Murphy’s art strikes a nice balance between being wistful enough to carry the fantastic portions of the story and being detailed enough to stand up to close investigation. I found myself scanning the larger revealing panels in a way I normally reserve for Geof Darrow’s work.  Murphy’s detail isn’t nigh-infinite, since it wouldn’t suit the book. It did make me happy that I could easily tell that Commander Worf was assisting that trio of NASA astronauts down the road, though.

The driving question as the series progresses will be if what’s happening to Joe is real, or if it’s all delusions from insulin shock. The end of this chapter seems to make the situation pretty clear, but I can’t imagine Morrison making things that simple. So far it looks to be an intimate, interesting little story, and it certainly has the potential to be another I Kill Giants, not something I’d expect to say about Grant Morrison. I’m very interested now to see where it goes.

Also, as a side note, I especially approve of Vertigo’s decision to make this issue only $1. I’d recommend it at $2.99 or even $3.99, but being a buck makes it a total no-brainer.

A Quick Thought on Invincible Iron Man

Since shit was getting real over in Tony Stark’s neck of the woods last post, I thought I’d put up my one consistent observation about Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man run so far:

While I have often read an issue of IIM and said “Tony! You fucking son of a bitch,” I have never once read an issue of IIM and said “Fraction! You fucking son of a bitch.”

Compare and contrast: Fables, where Willingham just cold lost me the minute he went from “sure, there are parallels between the Fabletown situation and that of Jewish ghettos in World War II” to “LOL OMG THEY’RE ALL REALLY JEWS AND NEXT YEAR IN THE HOMELANDS AMIRITE.” Regardless of any personal opinions I may have about Israel one way or the other, I had a great heap of “Willingham! You’ve broken the immersion! Bad game master! Bad!”

I still haven’t managed to catch up on Fables since that issue. Something about it has been essentially soiled for me; the illusion is broken and I know the author’s lecturing me, instead of sharing a parable with me.

It should be about the characters, not about the writer, when it comes down.