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Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Review Round-Up: Confessions Of A Superhero; House Of X #1; Sword Master #1

Confessions Of A Superhero (2007): A fascinating 90-minute documentary looking at the lives of four acquaintances who make their living from dressing up as superheroes and posing for photographs with tourists outside the world-famous Mann's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.

The primary focus of the feature is Christopher Dennis, the Superman of the group, who claims to be the son of actress Sandy Dennis, although her living relatives deny this.

A generally positive person, Dennis seeks to embody all that is good about Superman when he is wearing the costume, and is very protective of the character and all that he stands for.

Living in a hoarder-style apartment, surrounded by Superman memorabilia, there's an inspiring naivety about his personality that borders on autistic, and despite the knocks he suffers, and the darkness from which he has come, he soldiers on.

Maxwell 'Maximus' Allen is Batman, and it's hard to tell if he really has had a shady past he claims (and occasionally contradicts) or if he's a master fantasist. Even his wife is quoted as saying she only believes half of his stories.

What is undeniable, unfortunately, is his anger issues and Maxwell's arc unfortunately peaks with his arrest for threatening behaviour.

The giveaway that this was not going to end well really begins with Maxwell turning-up for his psychiatrist appointment in full Batman costume.

Of course, it's highly possible that that was staged for the film (how could a real psychiatrist allow his sessions to be filmed like that, anyway?), but it's still a jarring moment in the narrative that makes you realise something could be going wrong.

All the street performers are governed by strict laws - including only being able to work for tips, not being able to demand payment etc - and the documentary also talks to the patient police officer who patrols the area, and explains the problems he has with some of the "pan-handlers".

Jennifer Wenger (née Gehrt), as Wonder Woman, is probably the most recognisable of the featured performers, having gotten a variety of acting gigs off the back of this documentary and being a recognisable convention cosplayer.

Her storyline goes from her desire to get away from the stifling confines of her highly religious hometown, through a hurried romance and marriage, to a point in her life where she can see her dreams maybe coming true.

Joe McQueen, as The Hulk, is the final personality of the piece. Like the others, he is an aspiring actor, but living homeless on the streets of L.A. he really has to go the extra mile to prove himself and the film ends with getting a potential big break in a Justin Lin flick.

Despite the set-backs they all suffer, overall the majority of the stories told in Confessions of A Superhero are positive, offering an intriguing glimpse behind-the-curtain at the lives of people you might possibly cross the road to avoid - for fear of being hit up for change.

House Of X #1: Although I dabbled in the Grant Morrison era, I haven't really been a consistent X-Men reader since the the height of the legendary Claremont run.

Sure, whenever Marvel has yet another reboot, I've sometimes picked up this or that launch issue, but to date nothing has really hooked me back into that side of the Marvel Universe.

The X-Men titles - despite having regular crossovers with the mainstream stories - have always felt very much their own "thing", with their own impenetrable and detached mythology.

For me, you were either an X-Men reader or a mainstream Marvel reader - no one had the time or money to do both.

Until, maybe, now.

With its blend of philosophy, surreal superscience, and big ideas, Jonathan Hickman's House Of X (and presumably Powers Of X, the sister title out this week) looks like its going to reinvent the franchise as he did with his mammoth cosmic spin on The Avengers several years ago (which led to the destruction of the Marvel Universe).

As, effectively, a new reader, there are only a handful of characters I recognise (a very cool Magneto and The Cuckoos - who I know from The Gifted TV show, as well as the old school regulars like Cyclops, Marvel Girl etc) and a take on Professor X I don't know at all (front and centre on the cover of the issue).

But Hickman's mastery of language and world-building makes me want to stick around and learn about these people and what's going on.

I have a feeling that this could be yet another franchise-defining run from Hickman. And that's just based on the first issue.

Sword Master #1: This new on-going title features two stories about the titular character.

The first is the English-language reprint of the character's glorious Chinese digital debut from last year.

Sword Master - aka Lin Lie - was created for the Chinese Market by artist Gunji and writer Shuizhu, and this story hits the ground running and never lets up.

Lie is trying to solve the mystery of his missing father, an archaeologist who left him an ancient (magical) sword before disappearing.

Slick and breathless, this tale is fast and flawless. I just wish it had been longer.

I'm not really au fait with Chinese comics, so to my ignorant Western eyes, Sword Master has a manga-like quality to it (even though, I suspect, that's a horrible cultural faux pas).

Nevertheless, I absolutely adore this title and cannot wait to follow Lin LIe's supernatural wuxia adventures.

The back-up story, by Greg Pak, features Shang-Chi going all Mister Miyagi on Lie, trying to train him to be a hero.

While still a fun read, this feels more "traditional Marvel" than the opening salvo of the title.

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