Tuesday, March 17, 2015
After watching Late Phases, and thinking about how cool Nick Damici is in the film, I figured I’d put together a fistful of Lone Wolves; folks who strike out on their own to take care of business. There are a lot of really good ones, to be sure. But these are five of my favorites.
5. Foxy Brown (Foxy Brown): Foxy is tired of drugs, tired of corruption. Nobody is going to keep her down, or locked in a shed. A nasty, nasty movie, it puts the titular character through the wringer, but she comes through it. And most of that blood she’s covered in isn’t hers.
4. Zatoichi (the Zatoichi film series): A blind masseuse, Zatoichi just wants to be left to his own devices, enjoying a nice drink and some gambling. But someone’s always gotta start something, and Ichi is there to finish it with a flick of his sword cane.
3. Dan Evans (3:10 to Yuma): He can’t stand by and watch injustice. Pushed too far, he stands against the mob to bring a bad man to proper justice. He’s scared and nervous, but he’s going to get the job done.
2. John Matrix (Commando): There’s an island full of bad men, and Matrix is gonna kill the hell out of every last one of them until he finds his kidnapped daughter. Commando revels in violence in a way few films ever have, while being pretty darned funny along the way. Let off some steam, kill Sully last, and have a Green Beret for breakfast.
1. Walker (Point Blank): We’ve talked about Walker at great length on this blog, and I won’t go into much more. He just wants his money. And NOTHING is going to stop him from getting it.
Saturday, March 14, 2015
I reviewed this book some time ago, but I don’t feel that I gave it enough time/space. So here I go again. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have created a hybrid Noir-Lovecraft tale that spans history and delves into some existential horror in a way often lacking, even from the devotees of H.P. Lovecraft writing today. Mood is a primary factor, almost a character in itself, in classic Noir films (and their Hard Boiled literary counterparts) as well as in the Cosmic Horror that was shaped by Lovecraft and his circle. Fatale is dripping in mood. From the heavy, black shadows and muted colors of the art, to the grim trudge toward doom taken by each character. The series isn’t about mood and atmosphere, but they sure play a big part.
With plot and character nods to the inspirational source material, genre fans should be able to hop right in. The corrupt cops, the corruptible journalist, the violent mobster, and the mysterious vamp. The cult murders, growing sense of deep history, and hints at supernatural natures build up the Mythos elements. I’m a sucker for stories that build a sense of deep time, of back story for characters and plot. And while the main story of a woman in fear, manipulating two men in a chess game played against a demonic figure plays out, we start to see that events have been building for a long, long time. I love the little connections to historic events that are dropped in, too.
This was my second reading of the first volume, and I found myself even more invested, paying closer attention. At the point that I’m writing this, I’ve read the first three volumes, and am setting off on a quest to read all five in the very near future. And I know that some of the stuff introduced in this volume pays off, or plays into what comes next. But I’m still not sure how it all comes together. And I can’t wait to find out. When I read this the first time, I was captivated. And it got my creative juices flowing. It made me want to run an epic, generation spanning Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game campaign. Reading it again, I see why. Besides being a good read for Hard Boiled/Noir fans, for Horror fans (particularly of the Lovecraftian bent), it’s a great read for tabletop gamers. It’s also another reminder of the great stuff coming out of companies like Image, who aren’t weighted down with demands for status quo maintenance.
Fatale: Death Chases Me
Author: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics
Sunday, March 8, 2015
Full disclosure, here. As a wee lad, G.I. Joe, was my jam. I had the toys, I watched the cartoon, I listened to the audio-stories, I had the bed sheets; you name it. It was even the book that I delved into during my first, short-lived attempt at following comics. My fandom did not continue into adulthood, but I have fond memories, none the less. However, I never thought too much of Transformers. I watched the cartoon, and I guess I enjoyed it (more than Voltron or He-Man and some of the others popular at the time). But I wasn’t in to the toys, I never contemplated putting an Autobots sticker on my car, and I flippin’ hate the new movies (I kinda like the second live-action G.I. Joe film). I won’t swear to it, but I think the only Transformers thing I ever read was a G.I. Joe VS Transformers comic set during World War II, from the early 2000s. I liked it, but it didn’t make me seek out more.
So, I had little interest in another crossover between these franchises. But, I’m a big fan of Tom Scioli and his mad bastard Jack Kirby-like insanity. When I heard he was working on the project, I knew I’d have to give it a look, even if it otherwise didn’t interest me. Scioli’s that good. Free Comic Book Day came along, and there was a preview issue. I took it home and may have even read it that night. Holy crap! Reading it was like plucking childhood memories right out of my head. It had the weird little kid logic I used to employ when playing. The same vaguely sick sense of wonder and horror that produced things like building huge structures, peppered with action figures, then knocking them down to see how all the bodies end up. The dialog, the plotline, the crazy ideas; Scioli and co-author John Barber are tapped into something. This is everything my weird little brain would have wanted the cartoon to be, everything it was when I was alone.
You can’t talk about a Scioli project and not talk about the art. With hyper-weird images sifted through Golden Age comic mentality, his work explodes with energy. And with his odd, slightly off, almost muted colors, reading the book sometimes feels like reading the backs of packages, or those full page ads you’d find in comic books from the 80s. Scioli’s work calls out for color, and it gets a ton here.
If you were a kid in the 80s, if you played with G.I. Joes or Transformers, if you’re in to weird comics, and if you like the idea of something way, way out there being dressed in a mainstream, commercial skin, read Transformers VS G.I. Joe. It’s the kind of thing I love, the kind of book I sit back and wonder, ‘how the hell did this get greenlit?’
Transformers VS G.I. Joe
Authors: Tom Scioli & John Barber
Artist: Tom Scioli
The first volume of this science fiction series (read my review here) thrust the reader into the mad dimension hopping world with little regard. You had to pick your way through the various characters and their back stories with little help. A mad scientist, his lover and partner, his kids, his estranged wife, his sleazy boss (?), his mysterious assistant, etc. And the tech? What is it? What does it do and what does it mean? I had a hard time following it at first, partially because so much was happening, and partly because some of the characters looked a bit too similar.
The art in volume 2 seems to have improved a bit (it was already good), and the various characters have taken on a bit more distinctiveness. The color pallet is beautiful, and I really like the hazy look of the Native guy’s Black Science flashback.
Volume 2 feels a bit less feverish, a bit easier to read and follow. The pace is still breakneck, with plenty of twists, action, danger, and high stakes. And the overall theme, or plot of the book becomes more apparent. There seems to be a building dimension war, with variations of characters from each reality trying to grab power, right wrongs, and what have you.
My earlier sense that the Pulp/30s/50s vibe of the comic’s design belies its 70s bitterness has grown. I have very vague recollections of a TV show called Otherworld, which kind of freaked me out as a lad. This comic reminds me of those feelings. As well as stuff like The Star Lost, UFO, The Quiet Earth, and other, more pessimistic and strange science fiction. The characters are all complex, and most of them are kinda bad. It’s even hinted at that in the multiverse, our protagonists might not be the ‘good’ versions. In fact, they might be the villains for much more virtuous counterparts. Or not.
As happened at the end of volume 1, I found myself wishing I had the next volume at hand upon finishing 2. I want to find out what happens next, and it sucks that I’ve got to wait for…I don’t know, six months or so, for the next volume to come out. I guess in that sense, it’s kind of like waiting for entries in a film series, where you know it’s coming, but you’ve got to wait. I’m sure, when it’s all out, I’ll have to give it a start to finish re-read. So, while this isn’t my favorite science fiction comic on the market right now (East of West, maybe?), it’s very good, getting better, and I recommend checking it out.
Black Science Volume 2: Welcome, Nowhere
Author: Rick Remender
Artist: Matteo Scalera
Publisher: Image Comics
Saturday, March 7, 2015
On of the top actresses of our time, Rachel Weisz doesn't tend to make the big media splash, but she turns in solid performance after solid performance. She'd been working for some time when she hit it a little bigger and got some 'star' quality added to her name with the blockbuster remake of The Mummy. But for every Eragon or Bourne Legacy, she does two or three movies like Agora or The Brothers Bloom. She makes interesting choices, between bill-paying fluff.
Movies to See:
5. The Constant Gardener
4. The Mummy (yeah, it's not that good, but she's frickin' adorable in it)
3. The Brothers Bloom
1. The Fountain (one of my top ten films of all time)
Thursday, March 5, 2015
I've recently been writing some of my personal stuff, for the first time in quite a while. I revisited an old favorite setting of mine, and an old favorite character. And that always puts me in mind of the art of Frank Frazetta. Art has been important to me, inspiring me a great deal in my writing. And from early on, Frazetta's stamp has been all over my mind's eye. So, for little reason beyond that, I figured I'd share a few of my favorite paintings by the master.
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Picking up where volume 1 (read my review here) left off, Manifest Destiny’s second volume continues the story of Lewis & Clark, Sacagawea, and the rest of the Corps of Discovery as they explore the horror filled lands of the Louisiana Purchase. In this volume, they face more strange creatures, and stresses from within the group. But they also find more pieces to a slowly unraveling puzzle. The arch found in volume 1 is not the only arch. And the locals know enough to stay clear. Are they the cause of the strange creatures? Or a related symptom? Time will (I assume) tell.
All of the things I liked about the first volume remain true for the second. Cool creatures (gross creatures), weird ideas, solid art, and a general mood that I respond well to. And the development of the various characters, not just Lewis and Clark, but also crewmen and others, helps keep the pages turning as sure as the action and danger. A lot has been introduced in these first two volumes. I’m hoping it all comes to something. And I can’t wait to find out what that something might be.
For those looking outside the realm of spandex heroes, who have an interest in alternate history, Manifest Destiny is a must read.
Manifest Destiny Volume 2: Amphibia &Insecta
Author: Chris Dingess
Artist: Matthew Roberts, etc.
Publisher: Image Comics