Film: Brick; Comics: JL of A #1!

Brick (2005, dir. Rian Johnson)

It’s a concept that could have come off as completely awful. High school noir? The idea of combining the hard boiled 30s detective fiction with high school drama and angst could have been the proud nominee of a Razzie. However, in the hands of writer/director Rian Johnson its one of the best films of this year and of the indie scene in years.

Brick The film begins with Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) crouched over the body of a young blonde girl, her arm wrapped in blue plastic bracelet and resting in the water flowing from an ominous drainage tunnel. We jump back two days and learn how Brendan’s ex, Emily (Lost‘s Emilie De Ravin) contacts him, rattles off some gibberish, and then disappears before showing up dead. This pushes the adolescent Philip Marlowe into the fray and he uncovers a labrynthine drug cartel operating out of the basement of a suburban home.

The language is what really keeps the film moving. It’s that short, slang-filled verbal gunfire back and forth that makes the movie crackle with energy. The film has no shortage of kinetic movement despite many physically slow scenes. While characters may be silent for a series of beats, underneath it all is this explosive energy. In a sense, the energy of the film and of Brendan are one in the same. He’s quiet and methodical but knows when to unleash the fury we see just under the surface.

Director Johnson credits the fiction of Dashiel Hammet and films like Chinatown and Blue Velvet as inspiration. Lynch’s influence can definitely be seen as this is almost the real world but upon closer inspection is truly a very bizzare, complex Otherworld. One of the best films of the year and one of the most enjoyable films I’ve viewed in a long time.

Justice League of America #1 (DC Comics; Written by Brad Meltzer; Art by Ed Benes)

There have been incarantions of the Justice League since its debut in 46 years ago. Every writer who comes to the series brings their own sensibilities and personal bias towards who they believe is a iconic member. This time around, New York Times bestseller Brad Meltzer has made a mash-up of all the incarnations with some very cool twists thrown in.

jla_1The first issue in the series was actually #0, which came out about a month ago and served as an overview of how the Big Three (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) have influenced each version of the team, no matter how direct their involvement. In the official #1, half the issue had the Big Three around a table in the Batcave voting for who should be in the new team. The interaction between these three icons can come off as very forced and cliched in the hands of a bad writer. Meltzer knows exactly how to play with DC’s toys and plays up the pig-headedness of Batman, the pragmatism of Wonder Woman, and the idealism of Superman perfectly.

The other half of the issue focuses on the recently destroyed android Red Tornado. Tornado was a character who’s peak of popularity came way back in the late 70s, early 80s. Unlike the other heroes, Tornado came up with a false human identity to disguise his android side. He had originally built by Dr. T.O. Morrow (I pray you can figure that attempt at a pun out) as a villain. However, Morrow programmed his artificial intelliegence too well and his creation became a hero. Since then, Tornado has been destroyed and rebuilt a half a dozen times, and its recently been revealed that he actually some form of a robotic soul that re-enters the android shell once it’s reassembled.

redtornado Meltzer gives us a recap of Tornado’s relationship with the human woman, Kathy Sutton and his adopted daughter Traya. The android body is together, however his soul hasn’t re-entered it and Kathy is worried something has gone wrong. We move over to the limbo between life and death and find Tornado being consuled by Deadman, a figure who’s penance is to live in that paper thin space between life and death. A villain with the ability to multiply himself into dopplegangers has died recently, leaving the dopplegangers as zombies. The JLA has one and for all intensive purposes its an empty shell needing a soul. Tornado has decided he’ll become human for Kathy and for his daughter. Deadman helps perform the rites so that he can enter the body and everything seems fine. He even retains his powers in the human form. Once Tornado rushes off to see Kathy we learn a sliver of what is actually going on. Deadman is not really Deadman and Tornado’s android body is taken by someone who does not have good plans for it.

Overall, Meltzer delivers a great prelude to his first storyarc and really brings back some excitement to a character that has lived in obscurity for a quarter of a century.

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~ by Seth on August 28, 2006.

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