Friday, November 30, 2012

Brad's Week in Dork! (11/11/12-11/17/12)

Finished off last week high on James Bond and was ready to dive right back into the world of 007.  Just three films into the Craig era and I'm jonesing for more shaken, not stirred adventures.  I don't think I'm quite ready to take on all 50 years yet, but that's probably going to happen with the Skyfall blu ray release.  Still, after debating the quality of this latest Bond with my fellow co-dork and others, I really wanted to watch all three Craig flicks back-to-back.  Was I right, is Skyfall the best?  More on that later.

This week was also a pretty fantastic week for single issue comics.  Marvel Now is really heating up, and I'm genuinely shocked to discover my enjoyment of this soft-relaunch much more than DC's New 52.  Again, Matt might differ on this matter, but we all know he's usually wrong about everything.  However, this big issue this week was definitely Scott Snyder's Batman.  His Leatherface Joker is freaking me out, and it's proof positive that Greg Capullo was the perfect artist for Snyder's Bat-Horror book.

The Amazing Spider-Man:  This is not my Spidey.  But neither was the Sam Raimi trilogy.  There are moments that skim the essence of my Spider-Man, like when Andrew Garfield (in costume) is mocking the pathetic attempts of a car thief, but for the most part this feels like some guy's idea of what Spider-Man is rather than a genuine adaptation.  And that's a real bummer.  I like Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey, but her relationship with Peter is just awkward mumblings and that doesn't achieve squishy feeling of teenage romance; it's just passable WB melodrama.  And this whole "Untold Story" origin is a complete fake-out.  There are hints at a tragedy behind the death of the Parkers, but The Amazing Spider-Man refuses to pull away from the simple spider bite origin.  This reboot is just a retread.

Casino Royale:  Wow.  After plodding through Marc Webb's pedantic Spider-Man redux, Casino Royale really does feel like the genuine resurrection of what had become a rather tired and boring franchise.  But that's always been the beauty of the James Bond films.  Just when you're done with Roger Moore's outer space light show you get Timothy Dalton's D.A.R.E Avenger, and just when you're fed up of invisible cars and ice castles, you get the Post 9/11 terrorist smasher Daniel Craig.  Director Martin Campbell gives the fanboy all the traits you come to expect from the series but filtered through a wiz bang contemporary lens.  Casino Royale gives you plenty of action sequences to fetishize (the opening parkour chase through Madagascar is a series highlight) as well as giving Bond an emotional center not explored since the ill-fated On Her Majesty's Secret Service.  Discover here just why Bond ploughs his way through numerous sexual conquest - he's not just a slut, he's a shattered romantic!

Quantum of Solace:  People seem to love to hate Quantum of Solace, but I'll defend this choppy, brisk actioner till I'm blue in the face.  Yes.  It's not Casino Royale Part II.  But that's just fine.  Quantum is James Bond's revengefest.  It's what I wanted out of Diamonds Are Forever, the film following the execution of Mrs. Bond by that dastardly arch-nemesis Blofeld.  Sure, Marc Foster's camera apes far too much from Paul Greengrass's Bourne films but the chaotic action plays much better on the small screen and they're are moments of Bond rage here that really knocked this fan on his butt.  Daniel Craig bleeding out a goon on the balconies of Haiti - that's some painfully sad and angry violence.  Bond is a beast in Quantum.  Not just the rougeish brute, but a full on monster of revenge.  The film is not interested in complex, backtracking narrative.  Yes, we get a taste of an omnipotent soceity of villians but the film knows better (or at least doesn't have time) to dwell on the goofy puppet masters.  This is blood boiling A to B action and it benefits from the short run time.

Skyfall:  So, yep.  This one's still my favorite of the Craig flicks.  I love the previous two entries, but Skyfall hits all the right nerves.  You've gotten a battered and broken James Bond, stepping out of a stupor of drink & sex to help Judi Dench's magnificent M battle the sins of her past i.e. Javier Bardem's blonde joker...yeah, I acknowledge some striking similarities (both characteristically and structurally) to Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight but I don't let that detract from another wonderfully broken villain performance.  I mean, Silva, Anton Chigurh, Felix.  No one is doing creepy scary quite like this man.  And the Sam Mendes/Roger Deakins combo, there has never been a prettier Bond film.

All-New X-Men #1:  After pretty much abandoning his long standing run on the The Avengers (and The New Avengers, The Mighty Avengers, The Dark Avengers, The Secret Avengers, and Avengers Assemble) comic writer superstar Brian Michael Bendis turns his free flowing pen on Marvel's X-Men. Will this be another case of a strong start/weak finish (granted, we've still got Bendis' Avengers Ultron War wrap-up waiting for us in 2013, see your loose ends tied up there).  But I'm not going to start crapping on this book one issue in - what am I?  The Internet!?!  I seriously dig the high concept of the original X-Team traveling to the modern day to witness the horrors of their future.  All New X-Men promises a lot of mutant melodrama, especially for this once die hard X-Factor fan.  Teen Jean Grey & Cyclops throwing down with fur ball Wolverine?  Yeah, this could be a whole lotta fun.

X-Men Legacy #1:  Um, I don't know what the hell was going on in this book.  It has something to do with Charles Xavier's crazy ass son Legion, and the mental prison he's got in his brain going kablooey. Frankly, I found Simon Spurrier's dialog nearly impossible to decipher and I'm not sure if that's due to bad writing or simply a result of my utter ignorance of this character.  Either way, I will not be picking up the second issue.  The first true strike out of the Marvel Now line.

Fantastic Four #1:  This, on the other hand, could be quite fun.  I'm not going to pretend that I know much about the Fantastic Four.  I've only occasionally read the book; usually when a writer or artist I enjoy jumps on board.  In this case, I dig both.  Matt Fraction has delivered plenty of good reads in the Marvel Universe (see the current Hawkeye, and the now defunct Immortal Iron Fist) and it looks like he's got some cosmic fun in store for the super hero family.  Which is nice cuz I've always thought of the FF as a space team but it rarely seems like they spend their times amongst the stars (or dimensions). And Mark Bagley's art seems to suit the good cheer of this book.  Lots of smiley faces to go with the heroics.

Thor - God of Thunder #1:  Hmmmm, writer Jason Aaron seems like he's got a big show in store for Thor fans.  Jumping from past, present, and future Thors, the mighty son of Odin takes on the God Killer.  Don't know what that is yet, but it sure seems like an epic adversary.  Like Fantastic Four, I'm not too familar with this character but I appreciate the grande narrative being unraveled.  Hopefully he can bring it to a satisfying conclusion.  And artist Eric Ribic pulls off some real Frank Frazetta-like paintings for each an every panel.  Truly impressive art.

Batman #14:  Batman #14:  The Death of the Family story drips with blood and dread as the Joker targets the friends of Batman.  No one is safe, not even poor hammer faced Alfred.  I'm definitely not as intrigued by the story as I was The Court of Owls, but I appreciate Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo's firm grasp on the horror genre for this incarnation of the Caped Crusader.  This is just the beginning, and I'm looking forward to the depths the leatherfaced Joker is going to plunge poor Bruce Wayne...not to mention his bevy of sidekicks.

Archer & Armstrong #4:  This has quickly become my favorite book coming out of the Valiant relaunch (huh, that's a popular word this week).  Which is funny, cuz I never had any interest in the original book.  It's goofy as all hell, but just as fun as Archer & Armstrong go toe-to-toe with Hitler Monks & evil cultists.  It's certainly not for everyone, and I could see serious stick-up-the-tuchus types finding plenty to rile their nerve.  But man, if you find tiny mustaches on your Holy Warriors than you'll be rolling with laughter as all the right bad guys get punched.

Bloodshot #5:  After a couple of really fun issues, Bloodshot 5 dips a little in the enthusiasm area.  Maybe its cuz the last issue ended with Bloodshot all Commando'd up, machine guns ready to blaze but suddenly we're dipping back to the past for some exposition.  He eventually hits Project Rising Spirit with a little help from his nanite buddies but I was hoping this issue would rocket from the start.  Still, this is much, much better than I was originally anticipating from this series and I'm even ranking this above X-O Manowar at this point.

The Creep #3:  Still waiting for the shit to hit the fan.  Four issues in (don't forget #0) to this five issue mini series and we don't really have any big revelations into what the hell is going on with these suicide kids.  Ox is a fascinating character but I need this narrative to build a little quicker, and I'm afraid this book is going to rush its conclusion for its final issue.

Saga #7:  I don't know.  Maybe I've been infected by Matt's review, or maybe it's just been too damn long since the last issue, but I was just not feeling this issue.  Marko & Alana encounter his magical parents and no one is too happy with the introductions.  I'm enjoying this sci-fi Romeo & Juliette but right now I'm less interested in the parents point-of-view and more interested in Prince Robot's hunt for the young lovers, and The Will's quest for revenge.  Plus, I could never see a giant alien scrotum again and it would be too soon.

Where Is Jake Ellis? #1:  I enjoyed the original mini-series but I wasn't in love with it.  And this is a promising start to this weirdo sci-fi spy comic.  We now have a better idea of who & what Jake Ellis is, but we still don't know how he got into the miserable shape he's currently occupying.  Like all #1s, we get a lot more questions with very little answers.  Holding judgement if I'm one of the converted or not, but I'll keep on chugging with this latest series.

Steel Dawn:  Who doesn't love Road House?  Or Point Break?  Or even Red Dawn?  But this is none of those.  A cheesy, post-apocalyptic cheapie that has more in common with Roger Corman knock-offs than those other Swayze'd 80s gems.  You've got some good side characters in Anthony Zerbe, Brion James, and Arnold Vosloo but they're not enough help brand this a Swayze classic.  I mean, you at least need a good Sam Elliot to mentor his way through the ass kickery.  Sharp objects and bath tubs do not a good time make.

The Campaign:  I have a weakness for Will Ferrell.  It's mostly a result of The Other Guys and this year's Casa Di Me Padre.  So now I rent films I probably shouldn't.  Like The Campaign.  Ferrell is funny enough as the sexually demented politician duking it out with Zach Galifianakis' repressed, mentally handicapped doof.  There are a couple jokes that land.  A baby gets punched.  But it's nowhere near as quotable as the two Ferrell flicks mentioned previously and it certainly won't capture the pop culture zeitgeist like the ultra bizarro Anchorman.  A time killer.  That's as good as it gets.

Fire With Fire:  So I redboxed this.  Bruce Willis.  Rosario Dawson.  Josh Duhamel.  50 Cent.  Why not?  Oh, because it's totally boring and mentally draining?  Right.  Willis has entered that "I'll Do Anything For A Sandwich" phase of his career, so I understand his presence here.  And Josh Duhamel has been given the chance to star alongside better actors, so good for him.  But Rosario Dawson?  You're better than this.  Someone out there in Hollywoodland need to put you front and center in a quality flick, not just firefighter actioners and unstoppable train movies.

Invincible Ultimate Collection Volume 1:  Friday night was our seventh meeting of The Ultimate Justice League of Extraordinary Book Club, and I pretty much forced Invincible into the circle of trust. Once upon a time, this was my favorite super hero comic.  I read the first 38 issues, fell behind and never picked it back up.  Not really sure why I fell off the Kirkman train, but I'm sooooooo glad I'm back on board.  What starts off as a fun, teenage melodrama substitute for Brian Michael Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man quickly transforms into a cosmic familial nightmare reminiscent of those classically epic Greek Tragedies.  Mark Grayson is the son of Omni-Man, think the Image Universe equivalent of Superman.  One day while slinging burgers, he discovers that his father's extraordinary gifts have finally descended upon him.  With a smile and a great slap on his back, Omni-Man accepts Mark into the family business of Earth's protection.

The first half of this volume is mostly whacky super hero hijinx.  Mark Grayson's Invincible takes on inter dimensional warriors, bionic college-hating zombies, and Allen the Alien.  He meets other colorful cohorts with goofy names like Rex-Spode, Atom Eve, Robot, and Monster Girl.  But when this colorful comic sees red, the reader gets a strong reminder that this is no kids book.  Blood, blood, blood.  Invincible contains some of the most brutal punch-ups in comics, but there's some serious emotion packed behind each powerful punch.  This is Robert Kirkman, after all.  The man behind The Walking Dead.  He knows that the characters have to earn the violence, and as much as he seems to enjoy torturing his creations he never forgets to reward the reader with just as epic heartstring manipulation.  What started off as an Ultimate Spider-Man wannabe quickly surpassed the shiny, new & improved web head (and this is coming from an Ultimate Spider-Man fanboy).

Unfortunately, I don't think the group (including The Wife) fell as hard as I did for the problems of Mark Grayson.  Granted there was some confusion as to how many trade paperbacks were contained in the first deluxe hardcover (the answer is 3) and some of the group did not read the entirety of the first story arc.  And so much of Invincible's genius stems from the conclusion of that third trade - it's where you learn that Mark's after world of heroics really ain't that safe, and pretty much anyone associated with Invincible is gonna get devastated at one point or another.  So, I might not have made a lot of converts with this book, but it was definitely the kick in the butt I needed to catch up on the book.

Invincible Ultimate Collection Volume 2:  After the devastation of the last volume, Mark Grayson attempts to pick up the pieces of his home life and fight the good fight for Truth, Justice, and The American Way.  Taking up with the Guardians of the Globe, Mark & Atom Eve try to ignore their feelings for each other while smashing their way through one of the goofiest and deadliest rogue's galleries in comics.  Throughout the second volume we're treated to the birth of Mark Grayson's Lex Luthor aka Angstrom Levy.  Along the way we get battles with the Reanimen (those college-hating bionic zombies), the mob boss Machine Head, and those pesky Mauler Twins ("you're the clone!" "No, you're the clone!").  Volume 2 is not quite the punch to the gut that was the first hardcover; it's mostly setting up future threats for our heroes.  The Sequid Invasion, The interdimensional Flaxxan threat, Robot's shadowy shenanigans.  This is just a tiny brick in the saga of Invincible.  You'll never guess where all this silliness is building, but it's definitely not Happy Days.

Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2:  A helluva way to end my Week in Dork.  I'll go & enjoy any movie.  Sure.  When this whole thing started, The Wife was taking me out to the movies.  We saw Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, & Breaking Dawn 1 all on the big screen.  Somewhere between 3 & 4, she got fed up (or bored) with the series.  When I asked her if we were gonna check out the latest (and hopefully final) Twilight flick, she said she wasn't bothered.  I jokingly proclaimed, "What?  You drag me to all these flicks and now you don't want to see it through!?!?"  I told her we were going.  And what started out kind of as a joke, quickly became a reality.  Ten minutes into Breaking Dawn Part 2 I leaned over to her and said, "Yeah, this is really terrible.  We can go."  She said, "No."  Then an hour into the film she leaned over to me and said, "Ok.  This is unbearable.  We can go."  I said, "No.  We've suffered this much, we can suffer till the end."  Breaking Dawn has a lot of talented folks behind it.  I'm not going to pretend that I'm the biggest Bill Condon fan on the planet, but the man made Gods and Monsters.  That's a kickass flick.  And cinematographer Guillermo Navarro has lensed everything from Jackie Brown to The Devil's Backbone.  And composer Carter Burwell is the man who scored every single one of the Coen Brothers films.  But there is only so much one can do with a turd sandwich.  You can throw every brilliant mind in Hollywood as well as every dollar, but Breaking Dawn can only ever be a big steaming pile of...garbage.  And frankly, it's stunning to watch with a Saturday Night crowd packed to the wall with teenage girls.  Jacob whips off his shirt and the wails of pubescent ecstasy are literally painful to the ears.  I don't know exactly when America went mad.  But with the Twilight Saga raking in billions and Fifty Shades of Grey taking the bestseller top spot...yeah that's an all time low for pop culture.  And, yep, this is easily the worst film of the year.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Matt’s Week in Dork! (11/18-11/24)

    A good week, I guess.  More comics.  More movies.  Some Lovecraft dramatizations.  Good stuff.

The Black Hole:  A science fiction film based on Heart of Darkness?  That could be awesome.  Sadly, while kind of fascinating, this movie isn’t all that great.  It has some fantastic production design and an interesting cast.  But the script is only so-so, and the ending doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Still, it’s worth a watch.  The model work is very good.  This came out in the wave of post Star Wars science fiction, but I think owes much more, stylistically, to Forbidden Planet.  It feels much more old school.  If I didn’t know better, I’d probably assume it was made in the late 60s, not the very early 80s.

Tron Legacy:  “Bio-digital jazz, man.”  The original Tron was an interesting and ambitious film that presaged films to come, while still being firmly rooted in moviemaking techniques of the past.  A strange and wondrous world, existing within the world of computers, peopled by programs of various powers and degrees of sentience.  This film extrapolates on those ideas to create a grand adventure, steeped in history and mystery.  Gorgeous visuals and a powerful electronica score from dance favorites Daft Punk help carry the viewer into the Grid, where Flynn’s right hand man, C.L.U., has taken over, driving the Creator into the wastelands.  His champion, Tron, now serves a new master.  The games have evolved, the programs have taken over, and something has emerged that was never intended.  With the exception of the fairly bland lead (he’s not bad, just dull), the cast is excellent, selling the insanity of the world and the story.  Just a really, really fun film.

Spaced Out:  A bit of cheeky goofiness from those blokes in the UK.  A bunch of dolts wander onto an alien craft that has stopped off on Earth for some repairs.  Culture clashes, biologic surprises, and boobs, boobs, boobs.  I can’t say this movie is good.  It’s not.  But dang, it made me laugh on several occasions.  Track-suited letch guy has some of the best scumbag expressions I’ve seen.  It does prompt me to ask, why would anyone in a dead-end job with no prospects even think about turning down a ship full of wanton women begging you to travel the galaxy?  Just doesn’t make sense.   And what’s with the end?

Pride and Prejudice:  Oh, those upper class twits.  They do get up to such nonsense.  Stiff upper lips, social climbing, and the petty difficulties between the rich and the not so rich.  A world where honesty and forthrightness are vices.  I can’t even imagine what romance must have been like from the inside during this era.  I see people going through the motions, but it seems like a religious ceremony; actions with meanings I find obscure.  As far as the film goes, it is very pretty, and you can see the early stylistic flourishes of director Joe Wright.  And I feel so danged bad for Tom Hollander’s priggish parson.  He doesn’t seem like such a bad chap; just horribly awkward.  But at least this movie shows the truth.  You can be terse, difficult, abrasive, and aloof and women will still find you charming and take the time to see the inner you, so long as you’ve got money.

My mansion makes me charming!

Drive:  A quiet loner does what needs to get done.  Made vulnerable by feelings for a woman, he gets into some trouble.  Not really a new story.  But with stylistic flourishes and a slow burn build-up to terror and violence, it rises above the simplicity of its plot to become compelling cinema.  Heck, it’s 40 minutes in before you get a hint that the Driver isn’t quite what he seems.  It feels like a movie from another era, the late 70s or early 80s.  In look, sound, and pacing, it doesn’t feel modern at all.  The characters are surprisingly complex and sympathetic, even when they shouldn’t be.

Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill:  Wait, Germany had an ‘answer to James Bond?’  I guess so.  Kommissar X is the slick 60s hero with all the tricks.  But why is he American?  The bad dubbing and shoddy quality make it a bit rough.  I’d like to see a cleaned up, subtitled version.  Except that the movie is also pretty dull and generally not well made.  So watching it again isn’t on my ‘to do’ list.

So Darling, So Deadly:  “All right, let’s stop talking about bananas.”  Kommissar X is back, this time in Asia to paw and leer at a new bunch of women.  More bad dubbing.  Truly awful music.  And lots of awkward action.  Then there’s something about a shipment of bananas.

Death is Nimble, Death is Quick:  Gah.  By the third film, the smarmy shenanigans of Kommissar X have long since warn out their welcome.  Germany may have had an answer to James Bond, but it was the wrong one.  These movies are craptastic.  And did he just make a pass at an elephant?  I think he did.

    I started watching the Logan’s Run TV show.  It’s something I’ve been wanting to watch for a long time, though I’ve heard little but bad about it.  Still, Logan’s Run is one of my favorite films and I was curious to see how they tried to translate it.  It’s odd seeing the first two thirds of the film cut down and repackaged into the first ten minutes of the first episode.  At about that point, things go off in a new direction.  Not one I’d take, but potentially interesting none the less.  Though, of course, an atomic war made DC look like Southern California (see also, the Planet of the Apes TV series).  The design work draws heavily from the film, but is a bit more conservative.  And the actors, while OK, are no Michael York and Jenny Agutter.

    “I’m good at platonic.  It’s my default sexual setting, after nervous.”  I finally started season 3 of Bored to Death.  Man, I love this show.  It’s so much fun.  So many evil people trying to do good things.  Sort of.  The crazy misadventures these folks get into are so nuts.  And holy crap, Dick Cavett is still alive?!

    On Sunday, as I was waiting to give a brief presentation at my job, I listened to the H.P. Lovecraft Society’s ‘radio drama’ of The Shadow Out of Time.  It’s a good adaptation of an awesome story.  On the surface, Lovecraft looks like a horror writer, but his work is generally more science fiction.  This one features time travel, aliens, archeology, cults, and a grand scope of time.

    I also listened to their adaptation of The Dunwich Horror, which was pretty good.  Though I didn’t like it quite as much as The Shadow Out of Time.  The voice work is mostly good, but there are some wonky bits.  The New England accents are spotty, sounding more like North Dakota than Massachusetts.  It’s a cool story, though.  Danged inbred freaks and their black magic.

    The adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness wasn’t quite what I wanted, but I think my love for the story made me a bit more harsh on it that I should be.  The radio broadcasts in the first chapter went on too long.  What could have been very effective became tiresome.  But once it got past that part, things got better.  In fact, everything after the radio snippets is excellent.  Once it moves into the straight up narrative of what the second party discovered at the camp, and the exploration of the titular mountains, it became nearly as fascinating as the story.  Like The Shadow Out of Time, this story does a lot to give Lovecraft’s ‘mythos’ a solid basis, a faux history.

    And I managed to listen to the adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu.  Another pretty good adaptation.  It’s a strange story, and this dramatization kind of revels in its oddness.  Told in a collection of flashbacks, narratives, and fragments, it creates a larger story mostly through implication.  This isn’t the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society’s first go at The Call of Cthulhu, of course.  They were behind the excellent silent film adaptation from a few years ago.

    Continuing with the pile of comics Brad pushed into my hands last week, I read All New X-Men #1.  Couldn’t be much less aptly named, as it’s exactly the same as X-Men has always been, going round and round the same idea over and over again with little indication that anything will change or develop in any meaningful way.  It feels a bit like watching a soap opera, where every episode features a birth, a death, a court case, a wedding, and an affair.  Each issue of X-Men features a good guy working for the bad guys, a bad guy working for the good guys, a thinly veiled social issue, a mutant ready to give up, and some normal humans causing trouble.  If my keen sense of Marvel’s stock storytelling is accurate, this arc will end with Beast sacrificing himself in some way to save everyone.  Check back in two years and let me know.  I won’t be reading to see if I’m right.

    Marvel Now! Point One seems to be some kind of set-up for the whole Marvel re-start.  It intros several new series and hints at some larger story ideas.  What’s up with Miss America and her weird dimension?  Who the crap is that alien kid living in Wisconsin?  And Forge.  He’s crazy, huh?  But Nova seems really lame and Ant Man?  He doesn’t just seem lame.  Bah.

    The third issue of The Creep continues the mystery of the missing grandfather and the dead teens.  Our ugly, pill-popping hero takes a bus into the country to aid in a missing persons search, wandering the snow covered forest.  It’s an odd comic.  I want it to be more interesting, but it’s still well written, I guess.

    Winter Soldier issue 12 finds my interest in this series waning, to say the least.  What I liked about the early issues was the way the Cold War hung over Bucky’s life the way World War II had hung over Captain America.  But, though still rooted in that era, its shadow seems to have departed.  Instead, we’re subjected to appearances from incongruous members of Marvel’s usual cast.  Wolverine, Hawkeye (seriously, Hawkeye?  Ugh), and now Daredevil.  Groan.  I’m done.  F this series.

    Fantastic Four #1 shows a lot of potential.  Getting once more to the core of my problem with comics from the Big Two, a world where Reed Richards exists should probably be a technologic utopia within a decade.  That it’s not is part of the whole status quo thing in mainstream comics.  Still, with this issue they imply that the Richards about to take a fantastic journey, putting them out in the crazy cosmic universe they should always inhabit.  I am curious to see where things go.  The Fantastic Four are science fiction characters stuck in a non-sci-fi setting.  It looks like this series may take them in the right direction…for a while.

    I like Boom! Studios.  They publish a lot of interesting comics, frequently some good ones.  But, they also put out some dogs.  Though I gather it’s achieved some success, I really, really didn’t like Fanboys VS. Zombies, as a recent example.  And I felt much the same about Freelancers issue 1.  I like girls with guns.  But this is brutal.  It’s trying to be funny and hip.  It’s neither.  The art is simplistic when it’s not ugly.  And the overall effect is that of a child telling a boring story.

    X-O Manowar issue 6 is something I read.  I can’t say a lot more than that.  The art is fine, but where’s Cary Nord?  The writing is meh.  The story feels too small.  In movies, I have always been frustrated by the budgetary constraints that force the story into the modern era to save money.  Well, a comic isn’t constrained by budget.  They could be illustrating nearly anything, but instead, we’re on earth in a jungle with a ninja.  Yawn.  This could be a really fun series, but it’s not.

    I read the second John Grimes book by A. Bertram Chandler, To Prime the Pump.  Great classic space adventure.  Once again it makes me wish there were more examples of this type of science fiction on film or TV.  Will Disney’s recent acquisition of the Star Wars franchise help to bring science fiction back into the mainstream?

    And I read Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, which I’ll hold off on discussing or posting my review of until after the next meeting of the Justice League of Extraordinary Book Club.  I’ll only say that it didn’t win me over to Marvel’s way of doing things.

    And man, after watching Tron: Legacy again this week, I got totally hooked on the score for that film again, along with some of the other excellent electronic scores from the last couple years, like Hanna.  And it all goes right along with the soundtrack I’ve been building for the story I’ve been working on.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Comic Reviews: Saga & The Storyteller


    I was hearing some pretty high praise for this series.  Brian K. Vaughan wrote one of the best comic series ever, Y: The Last Man.  And I love me some science fiction.  But right from the start, I wasn’t digging this.  The first thing one notices, of course, is the art.  I don’t like it.  At all.  The pencil/ink work looks fine I guess, but the coloring is disgusting.  Some of the character design is OK, but I think conceptually there’s too much silly.  Like an anime, it jumbles fantasy and science fiction pointlessly.  Why do some people have animal heads, some have wings, and others have TV faces?  Don’t know.  And it doesn’t seem to effect them in any way or mean anything.

    The story, about two soldiers from opposing forces who fall in love, have a baby, and flee for their lives, doesn’t break any new ground.  The incongruously colloquial, snarky dialog feels totally wrong.  And annoyingly, the only two characters I found especially interesting are dead by the end of the trade.  Humph.

Saga Volume One
Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image Comics
ISBN: 978-1-60706-601-9

The Storyteller

    Jim Henson was and frankly is very important to my development as a viewer, a reader, and a writer.  One of my favorite shows as a kid was The Muppets.  One of my favorite fantasy films is The Dark Crystal.  And one of the best shows from the 80s was The Storyteller.  And after Archaia’s amazing Dark Crystal graphic novel, I was jazzed to check out this anthology.

    Well, it’s not nearly as strong as the one for The Dark Crystal.  But it is nice.  The stories are brief and the styles diverse.  Old Fire Dragon is pretty good, another tale about the storied life of Jack.  But the best of the volume is certainly The Witch Baby, which is based on an unused script from the show by one of the programs strongest voices, the late Anthony Minghella.  It is the only one that got the dialog of the Storyteller himself right.

    Like most anthologies, the work is uneven.  And as a whole, I found it a bit of a disappointment.  I’d rather have had three really good stories, on par with The Witch Baby, than the numerous very short stories that do appear.  And while some of the art is interesting, none of it is especially good.

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller
Authors: Anthony Minghella, etc.
Artists:  Ronan Cliquet, etc.
Publisher: Archaia
ISBN: 978-1-936393-24-4