Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Brad's Week in Dork! (2/10/13-2/16/13)

Early in the week I got a sweet care package from the good folks over at the Warner Archive containing a handful of Jim Brown not-so-classics (Tick Tick Tick, Kenner, The Split, & The Slams) and the plan was to pound through them for Black History Month.  But my movie marathon has just not taken shape.  I consumed two of 'em and watched a couple other flicks, but this week was mostly about comic books.  The pleasure of the week had to be the third issue of Hellboy in Hell - the return of Mignola has proven to be grand indeed.  And the turd of the week goes to The Walking Dead's mid season return - what a stinker!

The Walking Dead - "The Suicide King":  This show has been defined by its peaks and valleys, and the final product tends to infuriate more often than it exhilarates.  Personal Beef #1:  After a rather intense cliffhanger conclusion (two months ago!) in which Merle & Daryl are forced into pit fighter combat, Rick & the gang suddenly appear and immediately free them from their death match.  Beef #2:  The faceless inhabitants of Woodbury loose their hateful, cagefight loving minds and inexplicably choose an inevitable demise in a zombie horde than chillax in the temporarily invaded compound.  And the guards don't want them to leave!?!?!  F that.  I say let this Marvel comics mob with their wishy washy dullard brains jump merrily into the rotting mouths of the undead, and be done with their simple asses.  Beef #3:  The last five minutes.  I won't spoil the absurdity here, but to say that it weakens Rick's character is an understatement that just doesn't fully capture my colossal annoyance.  It's a god damn travesty.  And where can this horrendous turn of events lead?  Nowhere good, I think.  My hope for this show is dwindling.  Especially when I have the brilliance of the source material right there on the shelf in front of me.

Tick...Tick...Tick...:  "If you're gonna kill me go ahead and get it over with, I'm just sorry it's not a man doin it." Jim Brown is the newly elected Sheriff of a rural southern town, the first black man to ever hold the position. Matching the righteous tone of the picture is an overbearing & extremely dated theme song that bonks you over the head every time something potentially heinous might occur. Jim Brown walks into a honky tonk - Theme Song! Jim Brown arrests a white man - Theme Song! Jim Brown faces off an angry mob - Theme Song! It's a bit much. And the film really doesn't feel like Jim Brown's movie the way it should. His Sheriff is so concerned with walking the line that he can't bear to break into violence. He's reserved. He's quiet. He does the right thing. I don't want that. George Kennedy, as his predecessor, is the brute of the film. He's allowed to show rage. And once he sides with Brown cuz "the law is the law" he gets to unleash some serious police brutality, barking and bashing on the racist assholes of the community. Tick...Tick...Tick is a solid enough film surrounding the powder keg of the human rights movement, but somehow a trashier B Movie flick like Roger Corman's The Intruder feels more honest. Tick...Tick...Tick is a message movie, and as is, it feels a little bit like a lie.

The Sour Lemon Score by Richard Stark:  After the lighthearted impracticality of The Black Ice Score, this twelfth Parker novel is a return to angry form for the series.  After a bank heist goes wrong and Parker's friends lie dead on the ground, our favorite professional thief trolls the East Coast hunting for George Uhl, the man who betrayed the score with the pull of a trigger.  But like most Parker novels, the man who seems the most problematic is not the real threat - enter psycho thug Matt Rosenstein.  With the introduction of his lady Claire, and some rather frivolous entries, it's nice to see Stark return to the unpleasant darkness of Parker's world and even more enjoyable to read the rage masked by Parker's professionalism.  This is the grit where Parker belongs.  Swift.  Logical.  Brutal.  And somewhat sad.  The Sour Lemon Score doesn't rank as high as The Hunter or The Outfit, but it does belong somewhere near the top of the middle.  I'm really looking forward to the next round of novels - I hear the build to Butcher's Moon is violent and severe.

All New X-Men #7:  The Young Cyclops wanders into the bank where The Old Cyclops stashes his cash and discoveries a sad note from the past...I mean, his future.  I freaking love this book.  Writer Brian Michael Bendis is taking what could potentially be a silly plot and rocking the time travel concept for all its worth; reminding this reader of the X-Men's self-righteous history while elevating the melodrama.  Plus, Wolverine's frustrated contempt towards young Cyke is hilarious and kinda heartwarming.  I don't like to see Mysteque setting her claws into the young X-Man and I really don't want him to become the dark figure that this seres will undoubtedly produce.

Iron Man #6:  Yes, I'm still reading this miserable book.  I guess I'm curious to see how Gillen takes ol' Shellhead to outer space and the internet banter surrounding Tony Stark's secret origin seems exciting enough.  But the sixth issue is just garbage.  Stark discovers a purple alien lady, and taking inspiration from Captain Kirk attempts to bed her.  Unfortunately, Stark sports a mustache and the purple woman vomits upon its discovery.  Uh huh, this is the type of wit we're forced to face month in and month out with this sophomoric nonsense.  There is some blather about the Phoenix Force, but I just can't get past the 'stache puker comedy.  Last month I said I wouldn't buy this issue and I make that promise again this week...but you know me, I'm gonna fold again.  I just really want to enjoy an Iron Man book.  Same could be said for Captain America.

Daredevil - End of Days #5:  Ben Urich has a chat with The Punisher while he rots behind bars, but as Ed Brubaker proved in his Bendis followup, Frank Castle is just as deadly in handcuffs as he is out of  them.  This issue also posits the resurrection of Matt Murdoch, in body and spandex.  Still, it does feel like it's meandering a bit, and I'm starting to get the sense that it can't possibly put a button on Bendis' epic run.  Which is a bummer - for this return to ultimately prove perfunctory would somewhat sully a perfect run of Daredevil comics.

Thunderbolts #4:  As I feared, this issue takes a bit of the punch from last issue's killer final page, but I'm still enjoying General Ross' assault on Katya Jaya.  And like with the book above, Frank Castle is the all star.  Super Heroes have nothing on a man willing to strap a land mine to his chest and play bear hug.  And Deadpool gets to enjoy his giggles.  What I'm really looking forward to is an Elektra/Punisher team-up - or will it just be a straight up killfest?

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #20:  Miles Morales faces off against his first true Spider-Man villain when the Venom symbiote shows up on his doorstep looking to consume Miles' father for a case of mistaken identity.  Is it Eddie Brock under the goo?  Is Venom just out for Spidey blood or is there a deeper purpose?  Not sure yet, but I'm looking forward to some super hero smackdown and I've got my fingers crossed that Jessica Drew is gonna appear for some much needed backup.

Winter Soldier #15:  After Ed Brubaker's disappointing exit, writer Jason Latour picks up the reins and delivers a merry little book.  Not much time is spent on the Black Widow memory wipe fallout (that seems to be happening a lot right now in the Marvel universe) as Bucky jumps right into another evil Hydra plot (there seems to be a lot of those too).  But where the narrative feels a little too familiar, the tone of the adventure is frothy fun and that is definitely refreshing.  Artist Nic Klein has a punchy pulp style and I love his half split Hydra goons sprouting Lovecraftian tentacles.  And who does't love a POV shot as Night of the Hunter brass knuckles come flying at you?  Still waiting to see if the story actually captivates, but it's a fun book and that's something Brubaker's Cap stories weren't...at least in the last two out of his eight year run.  I hate to write that - I'm team Brubaker - but it's bloody true.

Hellboy in Hell #3:  I read a lot of Mike Mignola interviews building up to the release of last year's Hellboy in Hell.  In most of them he stated how he was currently interested in telling short, little stories set in the underworld.  And he also stated that the first three issues of Hellboy in Hell would put the final button on Hellboy's Beast of the Apocalypse problem.  I just could not believe that.  For twenty years, Hellboy has been struggling to shed his apocalyptic crown - how could three simple issues wrap up all that brooding angst?  Well, damn.  Mignola has done just that.  Hellboy's certainly not free and clear from his doom & gloom and he's still stuck down under, but it does appear that the 666 mantel has been shed.  And it's all done in a logical and satisfying manner.  I'm shocked and stoked.  Plus, this issue also sees the introduction of HB's siblings, a look at his father's present state, Leviathan, and the Prince of Darkness himself.  Easily one of my most favorite single issues from the series.

Kenner:  Jim Brown plays an American sailor searching the Karma confused streets of Bombay for the man who murdered his partner.  As he bumps into some awkwardly Westernized interpretations of hinduism he also stumbles upon a young boy searching for his American father.  The two form an antagonistic friendship that's tested even further when the boy's mother inexplicably falls for Jim Brown.  I wish I could report a lost classic, but Kenner is dullsville at best and painfully boring at worst.  I will say that there is one surprising twist that got me to sit up and take notice, but by the time the train barrels through the screenplay it's far too late for me to care about a surprise death.

Skyfall:  The blu ray is truly stunning, and I stand by my previous statements that this is the most beautiful looking James Bond film to date.  The climactic Straw Dogs siege on the moors, the high rise Shanghai assassination, the hotel room shave - this is movie art ready for the frames on your walls.  And Javier Bardem's teasing psychopath is the most fun we've had with a Bond villain since the days of Sean Connery and Goldfinger.  Sure, the pacing seems a little clunky  as we jump from one interrogation to the next, but I love all the banter, and the homefront assault adds a nice change of p(L)ace for the typically international intrigue.

I Come In Peace (aka Dark Angel):  "Fuck You Space Man!"  I haven't seen this film in nearly twenty years, but thanks to the miracle of On Demand I was able to bask in its bizarro beauty one more time.  Dolph Lundgren is a street wise detective investigating the villainous White Boys gang, and when he's not distracted by his eclectic art collection he's spewing pithy one-liners.  After his partner is executed he's saddled with Brian Benben's spit shined G-Man and the buddy cop pair quickly find themselves involved in an intergalactic drug war...wait, what?  Yeah.  So one giant mulleted space alien comes to our planet to harvest drugs from our brains, while another giant mulleted space alien comes to our planet to kick that one's ass.  Yeah, ok.  That's bonkers.  But AWESOME!  I Come In Peace is an incomprehensible mess, but it's also loaded with endless explosions and gratuitous intergalactic murder - can't beat that, right?  Made at the tail end of the 1980s, the film desperately wants to ape some of that Walter Hill 48 Hours charisma and in their own way Benben & Lundgren succeed through sheer oddity.

Justified - "Foot Chase":  So far, this episode is one of the season's highlights.  In attempt to beat Walton Goggins to the punch - the punch being the footless Gerald McRaney (another Deadwood alum as well as the better half of Simon & Simon) - Timothy Olyphant and Jim Beaver have themselves a federal/local law team-up.  Olyphant's not sure he can trust Beaver given his seedy history with Goggins, but the two eventually form a jabbing repartee that brought great smiles to this Bullock/Ellsworth fan.  McRaney appears not to be the mysterious Drew Thompson, but I wouldn't count those chickens before they roost and I'm hoping that McRaney still has a large role to play for this season - whether he's one-legged or not.

The Walking Dead - Book One:  Friday night was the 9th meeting of the Ultimate Justice League of Extraordinary Book Club and we finally convinced enough folks to dive into Robert Kirkman's zombie opus.  I was really looking forward to revisiting this series, especially given my seemingly unsurmountable hatred of the last tv episode, and I'm thinking I'll plow my way through the rest of the big hardcovers.  Taking that into account, I was a little surprised at my lackluster enthusiasm for the first two arcs in this series.  Kirkman doesn't quite have a handle on these characters just yet, and even though all of his comics are bogged down with expository dialogue, this book is practically bursting at the seams with blah blah blah.  For the first story, I was really only moved by the Jim character - the idea that this quiet mechanic has suffered so much and the moment when he unleashes his rage it results in his quiet death.  Very sad.  But where as the television show seems to drone on and on with some of these themes, this first book rushes through them.  Hershel's farm is but a drop in the bucket, just when some serious philosophizing begins the barn doors are opened and the walkers burst out.  I remember falling head over heels with this book during the first trade, but as my memory reworks itself I'm thinking my love truly doesn't set in till they get to the prison.  So on to hardcover number 2.  For the most part, the group enjoyed this book but only a couple folks seemed interested in pursuing further issues.  Curious.  But ya know what?  Invincible is easily the superior saga and no one in the group got that except Matt & myself.

Batman #17:  Scott Snyder's supposedly epic Death of the Family arc comes to a close and I find myself a little disappointed.  That being said, I thought this issue pulled off a lot more drama than I was expecting given my lukewarm response to previous issues, and Greg Capullo's art continues to amaze with its ghastly beauty.  What's under the dinner dome?  The answer is nasty and genuinely surprising...even if five pages later status quo veil is dropped.  But when you compare this tale to other Snyder vehicles like The Court of Owls or The Black Mirror, it really offers nothing new to the Bat mythos.  Joker is a crazy bastard.  Batman won't kill him.  The never ending stalemate continues.  I'm happy Snyder got this character out of his system, and I'm hoping he can move on to some new territory.  More original characters, less sandbox whimsy.

Fatale #13:  "She'd known for a long time there was more than one layer to the sky."  I have yet to be disappointed by Fatale.  Jumping hundreds of years into the past, we get a glimpse at a creature very similar to Josephine and the witchfinder cult so desperate to carve her up.  There are a few clues as to the mystical origin at the center of this noir story, but these clues offer more mindbending questions than answers.  This issue still has that 40s dread, but artist Sean Phillips is really getting his Hammer Horror freak on here and I can perfectly imagine Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee walking around inside these panels.  As much as I enjoyed last month's stand alone issue, #13 is even better.  Cannot wait for The Wild West excursion next month.

Uncanny X-Men #1:  I'm pretty sure that I would have enjoyed this book if not for artist Chris Bachalo.  I've never been a fan; his style seems to be a muddy bastardization of manga and I just can't grasp how his characters bend & wobble all over the page.  Writer Brian Michael Bendis attempts to explore the dirty revolution of this current Cyclops dictator, and the mole revealed on the final page is definitely intriguing.  But Uncanny X-Men lacks the joy of its sister book All New X-Men, and if Bachalo is on  for the long haul than I'm not sure I can handle his squishy interpretation.  As with several other Marvel Now books, I'll give it six months before making my final decision.

Powers - Bureau #1:  Half the time I love Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Spider-Man, Daredevil, All New X-Men) and the other half of the time I find him completely and utterly frustrating (New Avengers, Avengers, Mighty Avengers), and Powers is the very personification of this annoyance.  There are books in this series that I find absolutely breathtaking (Supergroup, The Sellouts, Forever) but then there are stories that refuse to continue the earth shattering events of previous books.  Take this new relaunch for example.  In the last book the world seemed to have been completely devastated a la BPRD Hell On Earth, but now we see that it was just a localized event and the federal government is back to the business of enforcing Powers laws.  Just another crime of the week.  Dammit.  Let's get back to Walker's crazy ass Conan The Barbarian past.  Once you hit the Forever arc there should be no turning back, but Bendis seems to refuse forward momentum.  So very frustrating.

Fantastic Four #4:  My favorite issue from Matt Fraction's run so far.  Not as good as FF or Hawkeye, but I appreciated the time shifting structure of this story.  Reed is writing an apology note of sorts to Sue, explaining his POV at the time of their first meeting and how it parallels their current planetary adventure.  He's basically using a lot of words to say he's sorry for hiding their cellular disease.  But I don't think Sue's going to just role over with hugs & kisses.  Fraction seems to be amping up the family melodrama and I'm a sucker for that stuff as much as I am the inter-dimensional science-fiction.  Basically Fraction is showing us what the essential Marvel book looks like and you should all be on board.  Excelsior!

Archer & Armstrong #7:  Another solid issue, but not big shocks or awes.  Archer, Armstrong, and The Eternal Warrior all seem to be on the same side at this point despite some passive aggressive banter and some not so passive death threats.  If I had any complaint at all it would be this new Geomancer character.  She's sassy and kooky and I want none of that.  Hopefully she's just a storytelling device and not a new addition to the team.

Rome - Season 2:  "I have the same sickness."  And you thought the stabbing murder of Julius Caesar was rough?  The second season of Rome kicks off with our two favorite Centurions descending even further down their personal hells and they leave a massive trail of bloody corpses in their wake.  Seriously, I don't think I've ever seen a murder as brutal or hateful as the one found in the second to last episode of this season - now, that is how you choke somebody to death.  Granted the rise & fall of Marc Antony (and that Cleopatra slut) is a little less glamorous than the mighty Caesar's savage execution, but actors Kevin McKidd & Ray Stevenson are a perfect set of badasses to follow, even if they are the most pathetic and deplorable set of friends.  And I'd rank their bromance right up there with Denny Crane & Alan Shore.  That's love, baby.


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