This was another comics heavy week; the first half of which was mostly spent marathoning my way through the entire series of Mike Mignola & John Arcudi's BPRD. Soooooooooo goooooooood. I really can't stress how fantastic this series is, but I'm gonna try really hard. If you like comics at all and are not reading BPRD than you are missing out on one of the truly great titles this wonderful medium has to offer. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it, BPRD spits in the face of the Big Two comic companies and shows that narratives can progress - characters can die and stay dead, there is consequence for these fictional creations. I do love me some cape on cape violence, but Marvel & DC could learn a lot from the work being done inside BPRD....at least the Ultimate Universe sure could.
BPRD - Plague of Frogs Hardcover Volume 2: In the previous Deluxe Hardcover you got some pretty good monster books from writer Mike Mignola (& Christopher Golden on The Hollow Earth). But it's in this collection where BPRD kicks it up a notch, and by the concluding Black Flame chapter you will be utterly in love with this apocalyptic series. John Arcudi joins the writing team with The Dead & he introduces one of the most sad, pathetic, and badass characters in comics - Benjamin Daimio. He also starts to work in some wonderfully pulpy history with characters like the titular Black Flame & Memnan Saa, who is totally not Fu Manchu. The Frog War is no longer contained and the Planet Earth will never be the same again. But BPRD is just just about planet shattering devastation, Arcudi & Mignola continue to craft brilliantly unique new characters as well as packing new depths to old stand-bys like Abe & Liz. Seriously, who would have though reading Seed of Destruction way back when that there would be so much narrative to tread with the fish man and the fire starter? Certainly, not me.
BPRD - Plague of Frogs Hardcover Volume 3: Sometimes dead is just dead. That's what The Universal Machine (the first chapter in this volume) is all about - letting go of the ones you love. Despite what the X-Men may have taught us, The Phoenix does not always rise from the ashes. In Book 2, Garden of Lost Souls, we learn the truth to Abe Sapien's origins...or at least some of the truth. It also has the coolest batch of Victorian Cyborgs you'll ever see and it seriously messes up Johann's life path. That poor bastard. And finally, in the Killing Ground, the team comes face to face with Benjamin Daimio's Jaguar God. Right now, 100 issues into the series, and they're still dealing with the aftershocks of this tragic event. Plus, Daryl the Windigo. My favorite "new" character in comics is this family man turned Canadian Big Foot. Guy Davis scores big points for that blood beard design.
Viva Las Vegas: My first Elvis movie. Honestly, that shocks me. Growing up I was (and am) a huge fan of his music. But I just never sought out his cinematic work. That's gotta change. Thanks to Matt forcing this film onto me, I experienced wonderful bewilderment at the sight of Ann-Margret's open-mouthed, spastic pulse dancing to the tunes of Mister Presley. Elvis plays a stock car racer foolishly gambling his way into The Big Race while Ann-Margaret's swim coach attempts to distract his one-track mind with...again - open mouthed, spastic pulse...dancing? It's a fascinating watch and I feel like Viva Las Vegas is this weird portal into Pop Culture's Past. This is what "Cool" looked like in 1964 and it makes me feel...funny.
Dude, Where's My Car?: And this is what "genius" looked like in the year 2000. Ok, ok. I know what you're saying: "But Brad, Dude Where's My Car? is a terrible film." WRONG. It's utterly amazing and it's a film I hold close to my heart. Back in December of 2000 I saw this theatrically as part of a self-inflicted double feature with Apocalypse Now Redux and my life has never been the same since. This science-fiction stoner classic follows the misadventures of Jesse & Chester after a wild night of partying with intergalactic nordic dudes. It's The Hangover, only more whacked out and filled with "lop sop doy," Chinese Fooooooooood, and Fabioriffic cameos. You may not understand my love of this film, but I don't want you to. Either join the club or join Andy Dick in Brent Spiner's dungeon. After all, "It's A Breakdancing Stripper Emergency!"
BPRD - Plague of Frogs Hardcover Volume 4: The Frog War comes to an end, but that's no positive (see Hell on Earth for proof). Here we get the ghost of Lobster Johnson vs. his arch-nemesis Memnan Saa but who's the bad guy here? More history is explored via the living mummy Panya and geriatric soldiers of The Claw, which leads to Johann's showdown in Shangri-La, and the final holocaust under the crust of Munich, Germany. The King of Fear is a tremendous payoff for this series, but it's really just another brick in the sorrow of this ongoing series. It might always be darkest before the dawn but I see very little bright spots for the future of The Bureau.
BPRD - Hell on Earth New World: The World is Ending...or at least the Human Race's reign on the world. And that's not just a hook. That's a fact. BPRD is the ultimate experience in End Times fiction. But as stated previously, there's still time for character development. Despite giant monstrosities towering over The Salton Sea and the world's general unrest, we get another personal story here with Abe Sapien travelling north in search of Big Foot...or is that Daryl the Windigo...or something else. I'm not saying. But if you've read through the series this far you know the answer is gonna be another tear jerker.
BPRD - Hell on Earth Gods & Monsters: Back to the holocaust. A volcano erupts under Texas. Big bad crab creatures crawl outta the Earth. And a teenage girl predicts further devastation. But what's it all got to do with the fish guy? Nothing good. Abe Sapien gets his own Hellboy-like destiny and Agent Devon steps into the forefront of The Bureau. As interesting as these X-Files can be, sometimes I find these average joes to be the most interesting characters in the book.
BPRD - Hell on Earth Russia: I love you Guy Davis. I really do. And BPRD will always be your baby (along with Mike Mignola & John Arcudi), but this is my favorite book since the Hell on Earth relaunch and artist Tyler Crook was the perfect guy to follow in Davis footsteps. No longer America's problem, the BPRD under supervision of the United Nations, travels to Russia to aid they're paranormal division. We meet another potentially catastrophic character in sludgy Director Nichayko (who apparently first appeared in the Abe Sapien mini, The Abysmal Plain which I need to read soon). His relationship with Johann is ripe with dread and I see it potentially taking our favorite psychic down a very dark path...one he's been on since Killing Ground. And yeah, we also get another character from BPRD's past and she get's a containment suit of her own as well.
BPRD - Hell on Earth The Devil's Engine & The Long Death: The first chapter is a decent enough story, with Agent Devon attempting to bring teenage wasteland Fennix back to BPRD headquarters. Good luck navigating those crab creatures in Texas. But it's Johann's quest for revenge (or is it redemption) in The Long Death that has the most meaty emotion. Plus it's got more Daryl The Windigo and the best use of a moose corpse ever. But really both stories just serve as downtime until we get to the next arc, The Return of the Master. Dun. Dun. Dunnnnnnn.
Soldier: This is really the only film I flat-out-like from director Paul WS Anderson. Sure, Event Horizon has its moments and the Resident Evil films are there own special brand of fun, but I genuinely dig Soldier. And most of that's my Kurt Russell love talking. I just love his silent warrior, Todd. The poor mook's just a sad little puppy dog looking for a new home. Connie Nielsen's as good a master as Gary Busey, right? Definitely a kinder hand than Jason Isaacs. I wish we'd been granted the serious sci-fi epic that the screenplay once promised, but I'll take the cheese we get. This might not be Blade Runner but there's a taste of grandness to this film that you don't often get these days in this genre.
Deadpool #1: I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy this book. I've been a long time head-scratcher when it's come to the character of Deadpool. I remember when he first appeared in New Mutants and I thought, here's another lame ass villain. But in the nearly fifteen years since his first appearance, Deadpool has taken on a status of cool that I just don't understand. He's a wise-cracker, and I generally hate wise-crackers. But this book is a goof. After some crazy ex-S.H.I.E.L.D agent raises the magical corpses of United States Presidents, the government comes looking for 'Pool to take down these pun-loving abominations. After all, we can't have Captain America decapitating zombie Harry S. Truman on the front page of USA Today. Bwa Huh? And don't even get me started about Taft, his bathtub, his rubber duck, or his fried chicken. Deadpool looks to be a pretty jokey book and I usually hate jokey books but there were enough chuckles here for me to continue at least through issue 2.
Iron Man #1: This is the first Marvel Now book that I just did not like. I'm so tired of Greg Land's art. I don't understand his fans. All his characters look like characters he's drawn in the past. And his smiley Tony Stark is kinda gross to look at. But my main problem with the book is the seemingly been-there-done-that A.I.M. plot revolving around Extremis. I mean, how on Earth do these guys still exist in a world where The Avengers can take down Galactus? You'd think S.H.I.E.L.D. would mop them up by now. Oh yeah, Status Quo Comics has to keep them around!
Daredevil - End of Days #2: Ben Urich continues his investigation into the death of Daredevil. Not a lot of answers here, but I wouldn't expect them just two issues in. We get a little trip down Matt Murdock's demented love life with both Milla and...well, I don't want to spoil the last couple of pages but you could probably guess. No sight of the shadowy figure from the final page of issue one, though. Curious to see where Bendis takes us.
Stumptown #3: I'm reading this book but I'm not really invested in this book. The Baby in the Velvet Case has been found and by the end of this issue it will be back with its rightful owner. But now we've got skin heads and meth to deal with, so I'm guessing we're gonna finally start to get into life & death matters here. But so far, I just don't find this mystery all that mysterious. I've liked Rucka in the past but Stumptown feels rather blase.
Detective Comics #14: John Layman's Batman might not be as flashy as Scott Snyder's but I'm enjoying this trip through Bats' rogue's gallery. Sure, it all feels a little too Hush but I really enjoyed the appearance of Poison Ivy's dirtbag husband. And I thought Batman's mental battle against Ivy's mind control to be compelling; not sure if his struggle with the poison has ever been handled this way before.
Shadowman #1: DAMN. I loved the first half of this book. But I gotta admit that once the new chosen one was introduced in the second half I was a little bit disappointed. The father character is certainly a badass and his offspring is a little too welpy. Still there's is tremendous potential here and if it's at all like the other new Valiant relaunches, there will be plenty of fun to be had. Plus, who doesn't love voodoo?
Avengers vs X-Men Hardcover: Ugh. Yep. Not good. I got one question for you, Marvel? Why have your last batch of Event Books been rehashes of the Hero vs Hero showdowns? Civil War, Secret Invasion, AvX. Each one has been another exploitation on Nerd Fantasizing: "Who Would Win In A Fight Between Hulk vs Thing...Wolverine vs Namor...Thor vs. Colossus." Really, who cares? It's a concept I'm so over. And tying this to the Phoenix Force? Is there any more played out concept in comics? Don't think so. It didn't help that I've been reading BPRD all week, but this just felt like one of the most boring ideas out there. Sure, it leaves the Marvel Universe in a very interesting place - thanks to Cyclops turned Magneto but the good reads are in Marvel Now and certainly not this $75 Event Book. And getting CM Punk for the introduction is the biggest indicator at the quality within. Give me a break.
Skyfall: This sealed the deal. Daniel Craig is my favorite James Bond. Don't worry, From Russia With Love is still my favorite Bond film and Sean Connery will always be the Alpha and the Omega, but Daniel Craig is the beast I want Bond to be and Skyfall is the pinnacle of his adventures as 007 so far. Sam Mendes proves that he was indeed an inspired choice as director and he brings a steady camera to the expected choppy action of Quantum of Solace (a film I enjoy much more than most apparently). Along with that steady camera, he brings a painter's eye in cinematographer Roger Deakins. There are moments on the Scottish Moors and the skyscrapers of Shanghai that I'd frame on my wall. And then there's Javier Bardem's blonde monstrosity. Holy Cow! He's scary. But scary in that way only a terribly sad, pathetic, reject can be -- And I love how James Bond is just an annoying pest in his Wrath of Khan revenge against Judi Dench's M! He's so frustrated with this silly 00. He has a climactic facial moment that had me reeling in both comedy and horror...and he may be my new favorite Bond villain... Ok. I could just be high right now. But I love it. And I want to keep the Skyfall high. I want to keep going back for more. That's something special, especially in this year of constant disappointment and mediocre cinema. Here's to 50 more years of classy chauvinistic espionage.