Day: January 11, 2011

New era in more ways than one at Marvel?

Axel Alonso’s promotion to editor-in-chief at Marvel slipped me by. Still, I cannot understand anyone actually defending outgoing Quesada’s reign as EIC at Marvel….any rebounding of company fortunes has more to do with the shrewd handling of the film franchise rights of Marvel properties rather than any outstanding work done on the actual comics for the main part. Even beyond the large picture stuff like allowing Bendis to almost singlehandedly destroy the X-Men material with House of M as well as the string of Avengers-centric mega-event fiascos that followed, the man was responsible for some pretty odious stuff like his support of the Greg Land Formerly Known as an Artist(tm) (complete with hilarious admission of his light box mastery.) Most importantly, and the biggest bugbear for Spidey fans, his unleashing of One More Day/Brand New Day was one of the most spectacularly hamfisted (say would say childishly spiteful) attempts at retconning in the recent history of mainstream Western comics.

So, I guess the main point is that Axel Alonso can hardly do any worse. A lot of people point to his tenure as X-Men editor, but the majority of the damage was already done before he took over and its clear Marvel’s focus has shifted from the X-Men as the main selling point for the company. There’s also a two-way feedback loop involved with the film projects, with the X-Men films generally seen as taking a hit in quality from X3 onwards and being propped up by Wolverine, which ironically used to be a strong, legitimate concern that was laid at the door of the comic properties. There is also suspicion that readers were burnt out on the mutant equality premise, which was rehashed so many times that it seemed near-necromantic.

Going forward post-Siege Marvel is making things simple with the Heroic Age material, and while reactions are mixed the approach is probably more beneficial for attracting new readers rather than stimulating the entrenched fanbase. Alonso will probably have his work cut out for him, and he is/was heavily involved in the HA conceptualization so this is an important test for the company going forward.

“Do they have sensitive musicians on Planet X?”

Aliens are THE riot at parties“Comedy is the universal language!”

Level E is pretty much the show with the best execution this winter, even if Puella managed to be a bigger “hook” in terms of invoking curiosity in the next episode. Given the shows that has entered my queue so far have fairly conventional plot flow and simple premises, what really separates wheat from the chaff is execution. In this Level E has it in spades.

Shortly before I started writing this I wasn’t even aware Togashi (he of YuYu Hakusho and Hunter x Hunter fame) drew Level E in the mid 90s. This manga cum anime is clearly a different bent from his usual shounen stuff, and there is some really inspired stuff at times in the first episode, with sly playful digs at the alien visitation tropes in science fiction (nothing is complete if it doesn’t have an ET gag). Amnesia of our blond bishounen friend from afar is toyed with and discarded within ten minutes, and the interplay between him and Yukitaka reaches near manzai levels with healthy dollops of sardonic wit. The setting plays nicely with the comedy, with the town presenting a slight aura of menace to balance things out, but not in an overwhelming fashion.

Other elements like the music and art direction is decent, but not fantastic. Colours are clean and lines on the character designs are generally sharp, if not exactly fully integrated in tone with the backgrounds. The OP/EDs are at least not your usual J-pop drivel, which is enough of a plus factor for me in these trying times of otaku pandering on Nico. I even had a pleasant surprise in hearing Koyasu Takehito’s voice in the preview, and sure enough, he was there when I checked the credits.

This is probably the first show of the season I’m giving an unequivocal thumbs up without adopting a wait and see for the 2nd episode, but most importantly, it gives me a Occult Academy vibe that offers hope that Level E will fulfill the promise that Occult gave but only rarely delivered after the first 2 arcs. Occult had a serious problem in integrating its meandering arcs within a largely disappointing main plot thread, so I want Level E to succeed where Occult did not. For those not aware, Fall 2010 was also hugely dominated by comedies like Ika Musume, Panty and Stocking, Soredemo, Kuragehime and even Star Driver, so having a new one this season markedly different in approach (except perhaps SHAFT-ish Soredemo) is refreshing. Here’s a figurative toast to it doing well.

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