Action films explained and some so-so comic collections.

Rereading ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER: Violence, Spectacle and the American Action Movie by Eric Litchtenfeld proved a good move as he has excellent insights about Predator, Independence Day and the Spielberg War of the Worlds. Lichtenfeld argues that the action film (as opposed to war films or PI films  with lots of action in them) starts in the 1970s with Dirty Harry and Death Wish

— bringing Western themes of violent vengeance to urban setting. Then the genre goes through phases including the Schwarzenegger/Stallone era of buff musclemen, martial arts from Stephen Segal and Churck Norris, Die Hard knockoffs and disaster films (which is where he sees Independence Day falling), all with running themes such as revenge, captivity narratives and fetishized weapons. While I might quibble with Lichtenfeld’s genre boundaries in spots, overall this is excellent.

THE WOODS: The Arrow by James Tynian IV and Michael Dialynas has a high school mysteriously transported into the middle of an alien forest. They have no running water, a limited food supply, there are monsters outside; the president of the student council does what she can, an ex-military gym coach becomes obsessed with imposing order and an antisocial needs leads a party in pursuit of a possible answer. Like Summit last week, this is too by the numbers, though it’s a more interesting book.

ETHER: Death of the Last Golden Blaze by Matt Kindt and David Rubîn is the story of Boone Dias, a scientist cum detective (he seems very Sherlock Holmes to me) investigating crimes in Ether, a parallel world of magic. Dias doesn’t believe in magic — it’s all science to him — which makes it easier to think analytically about crimes, such as the murder of Golden Blaze, Ether’s great champion. This volume had too much set-up for the series, but it’s a good story nonetheless.

ADLER by Lavie Tidhar and Paul McCaffrey is such a good idea — accurately described as “League of Extraordinary Gentlewoman” — I wish the execution had been better. It’s 1902 in a somewhat steampunk Great Britain, with Queen Victoria still alive thanks to drug treatments from Dr. Jekyll. When nurse Jane Eyre returns from the Boer War, she finds rooms with Irene Adler and becomes embroiled in her latest adventure, thwarting a terrorist attack by Ayesha of Kor — she’s PO’d the British have colonized her kingdom — on London making a bomb out of some of this radium Madam Curie has discovered.

Despite it’s many flaws, Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentleman uses Victorian characters who are clearly recognizable. Here, however, the characters feel like name-only versions: the nurse character has nothing to do with Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Jane appeared in fiction fifty years earlier. There’s no shortage of characters I might see doing the nursing thing (female PI Loveday Brooke or Polly from the “Old Man in the Corner” stories) so I can’t see any reason to pick Jane beyond name value. And Ayesha’s scheme is not only overly complicated (building a death ray she has no intention of using) it comes too close to the climax of the original LGX. The art is good-looking but in the action scenes I had a hard time following who was doing what to whom. Overall, a disappointment.

#SFWApro. Irene Adler portrait by J. Allen St. John, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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