Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay


I really liked the first one. It was surreal, it was funny, it was touching and it had a lot of good lines to quote. I'm not a stoner, and I don't normally do stoner comedies, but Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle was plain funny. So I was jazzed about the sequel.

In the second installment, we pick up literally minutes after the first one ended. Harold and Kumar are off to Amsterdam to surprise Maria and on the way to the airport, they run into an old flame of Kumar's, the one that got away. It turns out that Vanessa is marrying an Brooks Brothers-wearing douche and Kumar regrets letting her get away.

On the plane, Kumar has brought a smokeless bong, but when turbulence hits, the white people think it's a bomb, or poison when the smoke escapes. So they get thrown into Guantanamo Bay and are almost forced to eat a "cockmeat sandwich". Anyway, they escape and travel from Cuba to Miami to Texas to meet up with Vanessa and her fiance at the wedding where the douche can help the boys get out of trouble.

They meet a whole bunch of wacky characters, smoke a lot of weed, watch Neil Patrick Harris eat a bunch of mushrooms, and they finally end up at the wedding.

Following the same sort of pattern as the first film, the second Harold and Kumar tries to go for a more epic approach, and a more political approach as well. When the film is making fun of the government, it's at its funniest.

What's nice is that there's some real character development going on between the two leads. Of course we all know what archetype Kumar and Harold fall under, but it's their growth that makes the film almost but not quite touching.

Also, is it just me or Kumar kind of chubby in comparison to the first film? Oh well.

I don't know. If you liked the first one, you'll probably enjoy this one. What can you possibly ask from a movie like this? It's not high art. It's not even middle art. It's low art done fairly well.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Late Frugal Friday and a Mini-Reviews!

So I've had the flu for the past little while, which is why I haven't been posting. And I missed this week's Frugal Fridays! because frankly, I haven't really spent any money. So I'm going to do a mash-up of the two things....

The Punisher: The Tyger


Here's another one-shot by Garth Ennis and drawn by John Severin about the early years of Frank Castle, from before he was sent off to war and from before he wore the skull on his shirt. This story follows a ten year old Frank as he grows up in Queens (I think, or Newark) and is introduced to the poetry of William Blake. At the same time, a kid about Frank's age connected to the mob is going around getting girls pregnant. Since they can't say anything, they have abortions or commit suicide. Using pretty elegant comparison, Ennis draws symmetry (an important part of the poem) between the poem and the monsters that Frank sees in real life, from the son of the mobster to his father to the kid that finally gets revenge on the mobster kid. There's always going to be monsters, the story concludes. It's quite a good explanation for Frank's quest, other than the death of his parents. Again, Garth Ennis seems to be the only character to mine any depth out of The Punisher. I would call him the definitive writer.

So I bought that, and I also went to this huge book market in a mall and picked up these two gems:

The Quest For Karla by John LeCarre, which is an omnibus of the Smiley trilogy in really good condition, but no dust jacket.
and Where I'm Calling From by Raymond Carver, a not-so-good condition collection of Carver's final stories.

The both of those for 5 bones. That's a good Frugal Friday buy. Okay, well, I'm still sick and I'm going back to bed.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mini-Reviews!

Today's Mini-Reviews! is not theme based. I still have another couple Garth Ennis works to get through before I get on reviewing them. So let's take a look at two new comics from this week.

Justice League of America 20

This is one of those done-in-one stories that are normally filler, but this one is written by Dwayne McDuffie and drawn by Brian Bolland Ethan Van Scriver. The Flash and Wonder Woman stop the Queen Bee and H.I.V.E. from stealing some sort of a matter transporter or something like that. This is supposed to be a character issue, in which we get into Wally West's head and figure out what makes him tick or something like that. Not only is this boring, but it's also been done in the pages of The Flash's own title by better writers than McDuffie. This was a thoroughly unimpressive issue, just like last month's issue was. Also, the art was ludicrously inconsistent. I love Van Scriver's art normally. He has a very detailed and expressive style, but on this issue, Wonder Woman looks like one hundred different women, most of whom are not as beautiful as The Flash believes Diana is. Both characters change appearance from one panel to the next. I'm thinking either ghost-artist or terrible inker. I dunno.

The Mighty Avengers 12

Okay here we go. A major part in the Secret Invasion crossover, this issue "rewinds the clock" (Bendis' new favourite buzzphrase) and follows Nick Fury from the events of Secret War to where he is now. With stunning art by Alex Maleev, this Bendis-penned issue might be is the best issue of Mighty Avengers yet. Here is a crossover tie-in issue worth reading. But on the other hand, my brain is screaming shenanigans. Here's why. First off, there's no Mighty Avengers in this entire issue. I didn't know this title was called the Mighty Nick Fury! Also,couldn't the story told in these 22 pages be done as a two panel flashback in the pages of the actual story, Secret Invasion? Cash grab for a soulless corporate editor-controlled story? Maybe. Or I can just enjoy it as a good ol' fashioned Nick Fury yarn. I think I will. I'm still jazzed about Secret Invasion. Especially if Maleev is involved.

So that's it for this Mini-Reviews!. Join us later for more Ennis stuff.

Lake Of Fire


After hearing about Tony Kaye's follow-up to the terrific
American History X, I was intrigued. It was a close to three hour documentary about both sides of the abortion issue called Lake Of Fire, and it was garnering a lot of attention and critical acclaim. So finally, two years later, I was able to get a copy of the DVD and watch it.

The documentary is a harrowing and exhausting look at the arguments on both sides of the abortion debate, and some arguments from the centre as well. Featuring such famous speakers as Noam Chomsky and some anti-abortion activists as Paul Hill, and even Jane Roe herself, Norma McCorvey, this film touches on practically every possible argument one can make for or against abortion.

It's shot in gorgeous black and white, a huge palette of grays, on purpose, as to show the complexity of the debate. It's probably Noam Chomsky who sums up the argument perfectly, in that preserving life is a legitimate value, but swatting a mosquito is also a legitimate value, and values are only values as contingents. They only exist in relation to conditions and other values. He's at the centre of the debate, and says nothing definitive about his position.

On the other hand, more than one person gives their opinion, often with rhetoric or vitriol or self-righteousness, people from both sides. Each political side or religious side gets their fair share, and with varying degree of eloquence and sanity, make their point.

A terrific motif that comes up again and again is the power of language. Abortion debates often come down to the definition of abortion, whether or not it's murder or if it's simply the abortion of a cluster of cells. People in the documentary comment on the power of propaganda, used by both sides. There's talk of "killing little boys and girls" and there's talk of "terminating the fetus". Each side uses specific language and buzz phrases to make their points. It's interesting, and maybe not so coincidental that famous linguist Chomsky summarizes the debate so perfectly.

There's people who are "pro-choice" who waver on their position, based on pictures of their own unborn daughters. There's people who stumble from the hands of God in light of their own personal conditions.

Tony Kaye expertly gives each side a chance, and the end result is not a definitive argument for or against abortion, but rather a definitive statement on the arguments themselves.

When I started watching this film, I was wrestling with my own political beliefs about the abortion issue. I don't mean that I had wavered from my unflappable belief in the right to choose, but rather, can one discuss such a film without bringing in their own opinions. Can a review such as this be unbiased? Do you not cling to one side of the debate rather than the other?

I kept being taken aback by the ignorance and the poison spewed by people of my own ideological background. These people would say the most vile and stupid things about their "opponents", rather than try and focus on the issue as an anatomical or biological issue. And often, the opposite side would come up with something so convincing, that I had to stop and think, if only for a moment.

It's a testament to Tony Kaye's skills as a film-maker that such a profound and nuanced statement can be made. What is at the heart of the fight for life or for choice is language and perception. What is also presented more than once, is that each ideology is "right". This debate cannot be won by political rhetoric or by force.

I can't say that my position has changed based on seeing this film. I still believe in the right to choose. What I can say is that this film is heart wrenching, emotional, beautiful and tragic and I would recommend it strongly to anybody with an opinion on the issue.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mini-Reviews!

Today's Mini-Reviews! has a special theme... Garth Ennis! Yay! So let's do it to it.

The Punisher MAX: Up Is Down and Black Is White

While I have been reading the MAX series from issue one, my favourite arc has to be the fourth one, called Up Is Down and Black Is White, in which some Mob guy desecrates the Castle family's grave and Frank goes on a massive killing spree. This is a perfect example of how Ennis is able to take what is normally a one-note character and mine real humanity and poignancy out of him. This arc sees the return of a couple characters from previous arcs, including Rawlins, the scary guy from the Mother Russia arc. Again, Ennis is capable of the funniest black humour, and the sickest most depraved violence, but he always tops it off with some character work. There's a reason why he's one of my favourite writers.

The Punisher Presents... Barracuda

Taking the most popular new character from the MAX series, Ennis and Goran Parlov follow up with Barracuda after he somehow miraculously survives being stabbed in the eye, having his fingers cut off, a point-blank buck-shot in the chest and left for dead in shark-infested waters. He's hired to be the bodyguard for the hemophiliac son of a mobster while the son goes to a Latin American country to get his "button" and kill El Presidente. Well, Barracuda has his own plans. It's very funny, and full of all those Ennis trademarks, including buttsecks and transvestites, mutilations and mass murder. There's even small character moments in which the hemophiliac son comes to realize that Barracuda was right: nobody should trust anybody. You gotta be hardcore, he intones. It's all very funny.

Fury

Ennis and Darick Robertson's 6 issue mini-series about Nick Fury in a real world setting is fairly entertaining. Here, Robertson's pencils are cartoony and nice, rather than sketchy and annoying like in The Authority: Prime. Nick Fury and some old Hydra nemesis go to an island country somewhere and set up shop as advisers, and then play the old Cold War game with each other for fun. With gorgeous covers by Bill Sienkiewicz, this is a great little series.

The Punisher: Cell

This one shot is f*%&ing great. In one single issue, Ennis manages to create an epic story with real depth of character and real suspense. When five famous mobsters end up in prison together, Frank Castle puts himself in jail next to them so he can take them all out at once. Of course, the sh*t hits the fan hardcore and Frank gets to punish these guys, but what's interesting is the complexity of plot that Ennis creates with just so few pages. Highly recommended.

So that's it for Mini-Reviews! for now, I guess. I have more Ennis to read, including
Thor: Vikings, his mini-series for MAX, along with Goddess, a Vertigo mini-series, and the fourth hardcover of The Punisher MAX. Look for another Ennis Mini-Reviews! soon.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bye, Dave

Dave Campbell's Dave's Long Box is done. He's closed up shop. I want to say I'm a little choked up. A little. He has a definite inspiration for me to start up a blog. That and Chris Sims. But we all know who won.

Thor wishes you fond farewell, Dave.

Who's Funny?

I've been listening to a lot of stand-ups for the past couple years, from the big ones (Dane Cook) to the little ones (Aziz Ansari) and I've got to say... I think I've got it down. I think I could replicate the sounds well enough to be a stand up stand-up. Hmm... well with material like that I may have to stay sitting. Gawd, I'm funny.

Not really, but I thought that would be a decent enough intro to my "Who's Funny?" blog article. So here we go...

WHO'S FUNNY?

Aziz Ansari is easily the best part of anything he's in. You can search for "Human Giant" or Aziz Ansari on YouTube and come up with such hilarious videos as "Rollerblading" or "Escalating Interview". All of these and more. He has such a perfect professional delivery. That's important to me. When you listen to a lot of stand-up, you begin to get a sense for the craft itself. Each comic has their own style of a) material and b) delivery. Some comedians have the same material but gigantically different delivery.

Mitch Fatel, who's weird-lookin', has an extremely unique delivery that pretty much sells anything he says. His material is... funny, but often runs around in circles. Practically every joke he tells revolves around sex. That's funny. I mean I laugh a lot, but until he gets more diverse, I ain't gonna call him best stand-up ever. His delivery is this lisp-y quiet and whisper-y creepy voice. He makes himself sound like a child discovering things for the first time. This is a definite case of "persona" however, as the "real" Mitch Fatel talks normally and is very aware of delivery. Every breath seems controlled and scripted. So Fatel loses points for making it less organic, but the professional delivery makes him funny.

I love David Cross. His material and his style couldn't be any more different than Mitch Fatel, but they both have that same professional atmosphere going. Cross has definite scripted bits ("squagels") but he sounds like he's just talking with people. He also has that specific voice that makes imitations (not impressions) and faux-serious tones work very well.

In the same world, Michael Ian Black is also funny. He has this great lackadaisical style, where it's like he's in a house party with ten other people as opposed to a stand-up comedian on stage. That's also important. If I wanted to feel like I was in an audience, I'd go to my local comedy club on amateur night.

I think that Demetri Martin is the current undisputed king of the one-liner. Not only is the only liner super funny, but it's also complex enough that sometimes you need that one second pause to let it sink in. His attempts at multi-media stand-up is sort of not working very well (you're a terrible singer, Demetri), but its ambition makes me appreciate it.

WHO'S NOT FUNNY?

I'm tired of Dane Cook. First of all, his material just ain't strong enough. He makes fairly obvious observations on every day situations and then makes comparisons or uses exaggerations to make the observation into a constructed joke. This isn't a new thing nor is it the worst thing. You can make stupid observations with a twist or a simile, that's fine, but your twist or your delivery of the joke has to be pretty f*%&ing awesome. Dane Cook is not. His delivery is simply yelling, or using sound effects or referring to a previous joke. It was funny the first couple of times, but now it's just annoying. References to late 80's nerd culture and using video game sound effect a joke does not make.

Oh, Nick Swardson. I had such high hopes for this guy. I thought that he was the funniest bit in anything I'd seen him in, and I was jazzed for his CD. Well, it's called "Party" and it's pretty much the most terrible comedy CD I've ever heard. Every joke has the same set-up and the same punchline, and he uses the words "gay", "dude", "party", and "f*%&" all the f*%&ing time. And commenting on the overuse in the act doesn't make it okay. Adults should know that acknowledging the poor behaviour does not mean correcting the behaviour. Swardson tells stupid stories about getting really drunk or really high. And that's about it. I like drunk stories. They're funny. But a whole CD of them? Imagine that guy at work, who every day starts every conversation with "Man, I got so wasted last night..." etc and f*%&ing et cetera. That's Nick Swardson. I really wanted to like the CD, but it wasn't funny. It just wasn't funny.

And to all you comedians who google yourself, and have found my blog:
Aziz Ansari is a f*%&ing badass.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Paradise X


Well, remember when I reviewed Universe X and I found it entertaining but confusing? I finished with Paradise X and I have some thoughts and some complaints and some positive things to say about it. So here goes.

To recap, the Celestial egg has been destroyed along with all of the world's vibranium, which somehow keeps the world on its axis or something, but the Absorbing Man has turned into Manhattan and vibranium, so it's all gravy, baby. Everybody on the planet has been mutated thanks to the Black Bolt and the release of the terrigen mists. Mar-Vell has destroyed Death with the Ultimate Nullifier and has created an alternative realm of the dead where people can live out their own minuscule paradises. He's also elevated a cast of A-listers into angels who help the dead move from the old school realm into the new school realm. X-51 has sent out alternate universe heroes as heralds to other universes in an attempt to warn them of the Celestial egg hidden inside their Earth. Wolverine turns out to be the missing link between the real humans (extinct) and the Celestial-tweaked humans (that exist today). Reed Richards and a bunch of other smartypants have realized that they need a Death, so they bring back Jude the Entropic Man, a super obscure character, who is the living embodiment of death, but Mephisto lets him loose and Jude makes his way through the world. Meanwhile, in Britain, Medusa and Brian Braddock are about to be married, but Meggan, his first wife, comes back from a living death (encased in stone) thus creating what is called "conflict".

Some other sh*t happens and then there's a bunch of monologues and conversations on the subject of destiny and man's potential and blah blah blah. In the end, it's almost like nothing happened except Reed became the new Eternity, so it's all gravy, baby.




Here's the good. The art is pretty terrific, especially the Ragnarök double issue, in which Loki and Thor take on their "father", and we find out the secret origin of the one we've come to call Odin.

As well, the dialogue seems to have been brought back from terrible to acceptable. This isn't Bendis or Morrison level of dialogue, but it's better than the Juddster. It's not so awkward that I'm pulled right out of the comic book, so that's cool.

What I really liked was the Punisher's co-starring role, and not because he's a wild card or anything like that (I'm looking at you, Agent Smith). It's a fairly decent examination of who Frank Castle is, what his nature is, and whether or not he was always destined to be the Punisher. His personal paradise is a lie, retconning the death of his family from history, and he comes to see the value of truth over self-delusion, and begins kicking the crap outta people. It might be one of the better statements on Frank Castle as a character (rather than a caricature) that I've ever read. Ballin'.

Now the bad. Nothing happens. It's all very boring. There's lots of "revelations" on the origin of characters and things, which contradicts some other revelation gave us. It's confusing. The whole paradise concept is so shaky and not clearly enough defined that I was fuddled for most of the talk. The best parts of this series involved everything other than the paradises.

Losing Uatu and X-51 as the main characters really hurt this thing. One of the reasons why Earth X was so successful was the tension between those two characters, the intimacy of the thing. But with Paradise X, the cast is so huge, there's no one character we can identify with. Especially Steve Rogers, who has been elevated to the position of angel. He's barely recognizable as Captain America (design wise and character wise). And he's supposed to be the main character? I think not.

Oh well.

It was still entertaining and I look forward to reading the whole thing again to absorb some of the more subtle details. Recommended for fans of the Marvel U, rather than casual superhero fans.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Frugal Fridays!

Ouch. A big one this week. I need to stop spending money and save it for California. I vow that after this week, Frugal Fridays is going to either take a big dip, or be non-existent. Here we go.

All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone by Explosions In The Sky
Welcome to the Night Sky by Wintersleep
The Legend Of Johnny Cash: 1955-2003 [Best of] by Johnny Cash
Marvel Boy by Grant Morrison and J. G. Jones
Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
The Punisher MAX: Volumes 1 through 4 Hardcover by Garth Ennis and various artists

Yeah, I bought a lot of stuff this week. After yesterday's post about
Marvel Boy, I went to a couple comic book shops and picked up the single issues at a hefty price. Also, I found the first issue of Flex Mentallo, but it was 30 bones and in terrible condition. No thanks.

I said I would get all of Garth Ennis' run on
The Punisher eventually. Since each hardcover was less than 20 bucks on Chapters.ca, I just went and got them all. They haven't arrived yet. Balls.

I was super impressed with
Little Children, Tom Perrotta's previous novel, so I went ahead and made the purchase of the new one, The Abstinence Teacher. From what little I have read, so far it's in the same style, emotional and funny. Thanks, Tom.

Explosions in the Sky did the soundtrack for
Friday Night Lights, which is practically the only sports movie I've ever liked, and the music is this haunting guitar-based instrumental stuff that is so cinematic. I purchased the two disc version of their 2007 album All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, which features the entire album remixed. It's so gorgeous this stuff. The only thing is the lack of vocals. I wish there was a vocalist. But that's stupid. The twin guitars that drive the song are lyrical enough. Highly recommended.

I picked up a Johnny Cash greatest hits after being in a music store and seeing the vast amount of greatest hits there are for Cash. He might be one of the most anthologized artists in the history of music (Elvis probably being the most). This set is supposed to cover his entire career, so you get that early stuff and the end stuff, including his stark cover of Nine Inch Nail's "Hurt" which might be better than the original. Even when his voice was going, Cash was still the f*%&ing man, you know? Man, I miss him.

Wintersleep's album
Welcome to the Night Sky features one of my anthems for this summer called "Weighty Ghost", which is about the separation of body and spirit. I plan to separate myself from everything for my trip, and this is one of the songs I will be enjoying. The rest of the album isn't quite as awesome as the one song, but there's something delicate and beautiful about their work.

And that's my f*%&ing gigantic Frugal Friday for you. It's not even living up to the name of the series. Okay, so that's it, people. No more huge Fridays. I have to be good.

You know what I do want to get for next Friday? The Decemberists have a live DVD out that I would really like to pick up. I've heard their live stuff and it sounds great, unlike other bands that shouldn't put out live albums (I'm looking at you, Fall Out Boy).

Here's a beautiful and heartbreaking song

I heard this song on Comedy Central's Invite Them Up 3 CD set and it was sung by Marcellus Hall, who comes from this band White Hassle. Here's a link to the mp3 of the original full band version. It's this beautiful and heartbreaking and pretty song about being single called "Star Position". From the intelligent and witty central image to the small little details that make it so heartbreaking, this might be one of my favourite songs ever. Thanks to Eugene Mirman and Bobby Tisdale for having Marcellus Hall on their show.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Again, Marvel sucks.

Remember a long time ago, when I complained about Marvel keeping trades out of print. I was talking about Walt Simonson's run on Thor, and how two out of five trades were out of print. Yeah, well, Marvel is fairly annoying. Here's another item that super annoyingly out of print: Grant Morrison's Marvel Boy.

Drawn by J. G. Jones and published under the Marvel Knights imprint, this is the story of Noh-Varr, a Kree warrior who comes to Earth and causes a ridiculous amount of havoc. All of his powers are Morrison-ion epic metaphysical powers, and the whole six issue mini-series is this balls-to-the-wall Kirby-style action extravaganza.

Here's what it makes it even more annoying that it's out of print. First of all, J. G. Jones and Morrison are teaming up again for DC's Final Crisis, so if Marvel reprinted it, they could advertise it as the original combo, the better combo. Also, Noh-Varr has made appearances in the Illuminati mini-series written by Bendis, and in the first issue of Bendis' Secret Invasion, the major super crossover of 2008. Why not reprint it as the first adventure of the guardian of the cosmic cube (which is what Noh-Varr's been up to). And if I'm not mistaken, does he make an appearance in Annihilation Conquest? Maybe.

It's so frustrating because the mini-series is extremely good, with great art and great writing and Noh-Varr is obviously a good enough character to enter the mainstream Marvel canon. THe trade will run you about 80 dollars on Amazon, and the individual issues will run you about 40 dollars on eBay. That's outrageous.

Don't even get me started on frigging Flex Mentallo, Morrison and Frank Quitely's absolutely perfect four issue mini-series about the superhero genre. That's been out of print since it was printed, and I can't afford the one hundred bones to get it off eBay.

F*%& you, Marvel and f*%& you DC for keeping these two masterpieces out of print.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Shout-Out


I'd like to take this opportunity and thank comicbookdb.com for all of their images and help in creating my blog. I've been hotlinking to their images and I absolutely love their work. The sheer magnitude of the project is astounding and the fact that they do so through pure donation is very impressive. Why don't you head on over and drop some coin on their lovely project? Click here.

Universe X


Yeah. So here's the story. Jim Krueger and Alex Ross lovingly crafted this super detailed alternate ending for the Marvel Universe in the 12 issue miniseries Earth X. It's super mired in mythology and Marvel history, so if you're not familiar with what's gone down before, you'll probably be lost. They followed up with another twelve issue miniseries (well more, considering how many one-shots were published) called Universe X, the second part of the vast trilogy.

In Earth X, it turns out that the human race are antibodies created by Celestials to protect the Celestial egg hidden in the middle of the Earth and Galactus is the opposing force, trying to keep the Celestial population as low as possible. Well, Galactus and the Marvel heroes kick the crap out of the Celestials and stuff happens. It's all very heady and ominous and there's a lot of talk about morality and destiny and fate and whatnot. It's good.


Universe X, however, is a different story. Mar-Vell has been reincarnated as a human child conceived of Him (Adam Warlock) and Her, and he takes Captain America and travels the globe assembling the world's most powerful items so that they can kill Death. There's a lot more that happens, including the revelation of the secret origin of Odin, Mephisto, Thor, Uatu, Thanos, Mar-Vell and practically everybody. There's a hidden reason for everything in this series.


There's a couple major problems with Universe X. The first is that it's incredibly complicated, but not in the good way. Stuff happens and then I need characters to explain it to me. Important stuff is given two panels while a conversation about humanity between the new Watcher (Aaron Stack) and Uatu is given pages upon pages. The idea that Mephisto gives the gift of time travel to the human race so that an alternate universe is created every time someone jumps era is so murky. There's no solid explanation for why this benefits him. Mephisto's powers are not very clearly explained. If he's not a demon or a devil or the Devil, then how is he so powerful? I suppose an answer for this is in Earth X, when it's revealed that there's three stages of mutation for humans: the regular one, a mass one, and then a mutation that evolves beyond shape or time (which is what Odin is, an alien that has evolved into what people want him to be). Okay, so we need a devil so we create one?

This whole trilogy is one big paean to Lamarckism evolution, and seems incongruous with previous explanations of the whole rise of the superman, such as Neil Gaiman's 1602 explanation.

I certainly didn't hate this series. I was quite entertained by it, well, entertained by what made sense. I think that re-reading this will clear up some of the confusion. I'm currently working on Paradise X, and I'm already on the second half.

Universe X benefits from better art than Earth X. Krueger and Ross are joined by Dougie Brathewaite, who has a nice realistic but still cartoony style. Kind of like a cross between Kirby and Maleev. If that helps.

But again Krueger's dialogue suffers greatly. There's numerous instances where I was so pulled from the issue because of clunky word-balloons that I had to read them again, just to savour the absolute terribleness of the sentences. This isn't to say that the whole thing has bad dialogue, because I'd say about three quarters of the book is fine, but what bad dialogue there is, it's really bad.

Alex Ross' covers are pretty ballin', especially the ones that all fit together to make a gigantic Mar-Vell poster. I've never been a huge Ross fan, more so enjoying him in small doses, such as covers, so this was fine with me. And Ross' fanboyish love of the Silver Age isn't as annoying in this case as in Marvels - it's quite loving without being B.J.-ish.

I wanted to go over this in minute detail, but since there's so much detail and so many characters that I would have to devote an entire blog to it, and since I don't love it enough for that level of blogging, I will settle with a review. Look for my post about Paradise X soon.

I recommend this to fans of the Marvel Universe and fans of Alex Ross. If you're a DC kid, or an indie fan, stay the f*%& away.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Suburban Glamour


Jamie McKelvie is an artist of extraordinary talent. After penciling the six issue miniseries Phonogram, he wrote and drew the four issue mini-series Suburban Glamour, which I have read and I will talk about briefly.

It's about Astrid, this emo teenager in this tiny English town who feels out of place in society and in her family. Nobody understands her. After going to a party with her best friend Dave, Astrid meets a cute boy and talks to him. Once she's home, she's awakened by her imaginary friends who, it turns out, are real, and are warning her against something big and scary. The next day, Astrid and Dave stumble into a cool new emo store run by this hawt chick called Aubrey, who's awesome. On the way home, Astrid and Dave run into some monsters and are chased, and that's the first issue.

It turns out that Astrid is a faerie child, an heir to Oberon's throne, or something like that. The explanation is a little info-dump-y and not very interesting. The plot really isn't that interesting, honestly.

The whole thing is this longwinded metaphor about being a teenager and feeling out of place. Astrid feels out of sorts with humans because she's a faerie or something, and her human guise is a glamour, just like her emo persona is a glamour et cetera et cetera et cetera. It's a fairly painful and drawn out metaphor.

What is worth talking about is McKelvie's astonishing artwork. Every figure is realistic and dynamic and fluid. Every person is interesting and unique and has their own distinguishing features. Astrid is beautiful and fun to look at, and McKelvie even gives her little touches such as make-up or studded belts.

The absolute best part of this entire endeavour is McKelvie's artwork. It's definitely something to be extremely proud of. Here's an example of the artwork. This is when Astrid is making her big decision.It's beautiful.

And I kind of joke about the not very good plot, but honestly, McKelvie is able to write fairly realistic teenagers. They sound real, especially Astrid, and there isn't this lame sense of "let's make cool references to make them sound like teens". When Dave mentions MCR, I know who it's a reference to.

If only for the art and the dialogue, this mini-series is definitely worth reading. Recommended.

Marvel's July Solicits

Boring. That's July for Marvel. Boring. There's some neat covers, including a fantastic Phil Jimenez cover for Amazing Spider-Man, and some cool floppies, but otherwise, there's a dearth of interesting material. Here's a couple things I want:

PUNISHER: WELCOME BACK, FRANK PREMIERE HC
Written by GARTH ENNIS
Penciled by STEVE DILLON
Cover by TIM BRADSTREET
The bestselling saga that redefined one of the Marvel Universe’s most unique characters! Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon deliver a wild ride of innovative chaos, reinstating the Punisher as an unstoppable force dispensing his vigilante justice on the streets of New York City. But not everyone is happy to see him return: Two unlucky cops draw the unenviable task of capturing him, while the ruthless Ma Gnucci and her gang will stop at nothing to see him dead. The Punisher also must contend with nosy neighbors and the rise of three copycats – the Holy, Elite and Mr. Payback – who want him to join their crime-cleansing force. Collecting PUNISHER (2000) #1-12.
288 PGS./Parental Advisory …$24.99

And yes, I already own this in single issue format, so I'm not sure I'm going to be picking this up. These 12 issues are terrifically funny and dark and interesting. It's a very tight twelve issues.

FANTASTIC FOUR #559
Written by MARK MILLAR
Pencils & Cover by BRYAN HITCH
You should have remembered the old adage, Johnny: love the woman, love her family. And when the woman is the super-villain called Psionics, that raises the stakes to a whole other level. Now it’s the morning after, and Lightwave, Natalie X, Alex U-16, Doc Banner and the Burning Man expect you to live up to your responsibilities. It’s the Human Torch’s worst break-up ever—or will it be a shotgun wedding? Plus: where in the world is Doctor Doom?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99

We all know I'm going to be getting this, but judging from the description, it looks my complaints about the underdeveloped subplot in 556 is not really too much of a concern. Also, the cover's pretty jazzy.

Anyways, so that's it for Marvel.

DC's July Solicits

Yes, it's that time again, when DC puts out their solicitations for the month of July. I'm going to highlight a couple things that I'm jazzed about.

First off...

ABSOLUTE RONIN HC
Written by Frank Miller
Art and cover by Frank Miller
RONIN, the acclaimed epic by Frank Miller, visionary writer/artist of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, 300 and Sin City and director of the upcoming movie adaptation of The Spirit, is collected for the first time in hardcover in DC’s oversized, slipcased Absolute format! In this tale, the legendary warrior known only as the Ronin — a disgraced 13th century samurai, is given a second chance to avenge his master’s death and regain his honor. Reborn in a futuristic and corrupt 21st century New York City, the Ronin must defeat the reincarnation of his master’s killer, the ancient demon Agat.
This breathtaking Absolute Edition includes rarely seen promotional art, fold-out pages and more special features.
Advance-solicited; on sale September 24 • 328 pg, 8.25” x 12.5”, FC, $99.00 US

Yeah. I really want this. I have the trade of Ronin, but this series is in dire need of a re-colouring and remastering. The larger size paper will also let me ingest the sheer size of the city that Miller draws.


BATMAN: THE BLACK GLOVE HC
Written by Grant Morrison
Cover by Williams
Art by J.H. Williams III, Tony Daniel & Jonathan Glapion
Writer Grant Morrison (ALL STAR SUPERMAN, FINAL CRISIS) brings Batman and a group of global heroes to a mysterious island to face a killer in this volume collecting BATMAN #667-669 and 672-675. Then, Batman relives a defining adventure in the life of young Bruce Wayne: the hunt for his parents’ killer.
Advance-solicited; on September 3 • 176 pg, FC, $24.99 US

Finally Morrison's run on Batman gets another hardcover. I've been waiting and waiting and waiting. This one features the gorgeous art of J. H. Williams on the Club of Batmans story, in which he draws heroes in the style of their pretend origin (such as a Howard Chaykin hero). I haven't been blown away by Morrison's Batman, but we'll see what happens for the end.


That's really it for July. There's Final Crisis, of course, but that's not even up for debate that I will be buying it. Soon, Marvel's July solicits will be up and hopefully something awesome will be there. I'll post something about it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

DC One Million


Inspired by yesterday's talk about my Top Ten Comic Book Runs, I wanted to articulate why DC One Million is the best crossover ever.

In the middle of Grant Morrison's landmark JLA run, he was given full control of practically every title he wanted and he set in motion a ginormous crossover about the DC universe in the future. Imagining if Action Comics got to the millionth issue, in the 853rd century, we take a look at the JLA of that era, which is full of JLA analogues, but with the glaring exception of the Martian Manhunter... apparently he went missing.... Anyway, they've come to the 21st century to bring the current JLA to the future for fun and games to honour the prime Superman's return from the middle of the sun. But when they get to the future, the 853rd century Hourman infects the entire world with a techno-organic virus, and everybody's stuck in the wrong year.

Okay, so one of the reasons why this is so good is because it's so complex. I'm going to try and explain the plot without too much detail. I'm definitely going to spoil the entire thing though, so if you've never read it, don't go any further.

The prime Superman went into the sun to recuperate from battles with Solaris, a living computer that's also a sun. Solaris is the Justice Legions' most terrible enemy, but has been reduced to compliance thanks to the Legions' efforts.

Okay, here goes. In the 21st century, the future Starman betrays the JLA and Justice Legions to steal a piece of Kryptonite that Solaris in the future will kill Superman with when he emerges from the Sun. Solaris also infected Hourman with the virus that stops Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Aquaman from returning from the future. Vandal Savage, in the 21st century has fired nuclear missiles at Washington, but the virus makes them explode at Montevideo, killing millions.

The Justice Legion Alpha and the remaining JLA in the 21st century realize that the only way to stop the virus is to build the appropriate hardware, which is Solaris. Yes, they invent Solaris because of a virus invented by Solaris. Still with me?

In the future, Vandal Savage and Solaris pick up the kryptonite on Mars left by future Starman in the past. Savage stole time travel gauntlets from his greatest enemy, Chronos, aka Walker Gabriel, but he and the Resurrection Man sabotaged them, sending Savage back in time to when the nuclear missiles hit Montevideo. Ouch.

Solaris kills thousands of superheroes in a last ditch effort to fire the kryptonite into the sun and the 21st century JLA are pretty much sh*t out of luck. In the past, the current JLA realizes the only way the defeat Solaris in the future is to plant the tools with which to beat him in the past, essentially a time capsule.

So, fast forward to the 853rd century, and it turns out that the Martian Manhunter, who has been conspicuously absent in the future, is actually the Martian desert, and when the Resurrection Man and Savage fight, J'onn comes alive and gives him the kryptonite - which isn't kryptonite at all, they pulled a switcheroo!!!! It's actually the f*$%ing Power Ring from the past! WHAT??!?!?!?!? Yeah. The ring gets shot into the Sun, cause Solaris thinks it's the kryptonite, and the prime Superman gets ahold of it. He and Kyle Rayner make Solaris go supernova and end of story. The JLA go back in time, tell the 21st century JLA how to defeat Solaris and then they put the pieces in place to defeat him in the future.

OH MY GOD that's confusing. I don't even know if that makes sense. Whatever. It's the best time travel story ever because of the tiny tiny tiny details, including the Power Ring and J'onn Jonzz, and they're all set up so perfectly. There's no paradoxes and the time stream doesn't change and everything happens linearly, but the story is told in a different order. It's the greatest thing ever. There's definitely more to the story that I'm leaving out, including all the fun future details, and all the stories set in the future, so it's totally worth seeking it out and reading it. I did most of that summary from memory, and typing it makes me want to read it right now. Okay bye.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Top 10 Comic Book Runs Part 2

Here we go with the second half of my epic list.

5 - Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch on
Ultimates, volumes 1 and 2
4 - Grant Morrison, Howard Porter, et al, on
JLA
3 - Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon on
Preacher
2 - Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch on
The Authority
1 - Walt Simonson's run on
The Mighty Thor

Readers of "a lay of the land" know full well my love of The Ultimates. It's on this list for the same reason that JLA and The Authority: big widescreen action with excellent art and terrific writing. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this, considering that I've already posted about it. Okay, moving on.

Grant Morrison and Howard Porter delivered big widescreen epic action on JLA. They reimagined the JLA as the Greek pantheon, put them on the Moon, and made them fight through time and space and dimensions without any logic. Low on character development, high on face-kickin', this is a very fun and entertaining run. The highlight is the Rock of Ages arc, six issues of uber-complex back and forth time travel and alternate universes. The best part of Grant Morrison is that he doesn't talk down to his audience. So much happens from one panel to the next that it's sometimes hard to keep up. (PS, I also want to include Morrison's DC One Million mini-series in this, but that's cheating. DC One Million is the greatest comic book "event"/crossover ever. It's also one of the best time travel stories ever concocted).

Next is Preacher, one of my favourite self-contained series, ever. Written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Steve Dillon, it's the story of Jesse Custer, his girlfriend Tulip, and his Irish vampire friend Cassidy as they search for the God who abandoned the human race. It's a complex story about honour, brotherhood, masculinity, and the tropes of the Western. It's also ridiculous funny, that Ennis style of black humour. When I first read Preacher, I wasn't really into it. There's no superheroes, there's no costumed villains. But the dynamics between the three main characters is so nuanced and developed that every time I read Preacher, I pay more attention to what's happening beneath the surface, rather than the copious buttsecks jokes.

Secondly, of course, is The Authority, but the original Ellis and Hitch version. Again, it's that widescreen epic action. Comics Should Be Good! has a neat little story about the creation of the title, read it here. I've talked a lot of The Authority before, using up two posts back in the hazy beginnings of "a lay of the land".

First and foremost, Walt Simonson on The Mighty Thor is just balls-to-the-wall high octane rocknroll excitement. Simonson's combo of Norse mythology and 80's era superheroics was a perfect match. The Surtur Saga, which takes up the first third of the run is awesome hardcore and just blows people away. But he was also able to make stand out character moments, like Skurge the Executioner's last stand (read Dave Campbell's watery retelling). In what world in which the Asgardians get automatic weapons and invade Hell isn't a perfect world?

So that's my list. Here are some runs that I had to leave out: Mark Millar and Frank Quitely on The Authority, Bendis and Michael Oeming on Powers, Grant Morrison on New X-Men, Alan Moore on Supreme, Grant Morrison on Doom Patrol, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely on All-Star Superman, Dave Sim and Gerhard on Cerebus (if only for the sheer audacity of it), John Byrne on Fantastic Four, Claremont and Alan Davis on Excalibur, Moore and Davis on Captain Britain, Moore on Miracleman/Marvelman, Mike Carey on Lucifer, Neil Gaiman on Sandman. The list goes on.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Top 10 Comic Book Runs Part 1

Comics Should Be Good! is currently counting down the Top 100 comic book runs of all time, as voted by over 700 people in the interwebs. I stupidly forgot ot vote, and I even had two different opportunities. So, instead, I'm going to post my Top 10 comic book runs of all time.

This is very difficult for me, as I'm torn between my sense of history and my own personal tastes. I know, instinctively, that the Lee/Kirby combo on
Fantastic Four should be the best, but it's not my favourite run to read for entertainment value. Nor is the Lee/Ditko run on Spider-Man, or the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans, or Claremont/Byrne/Cockrum X-Men. This are all the best of the best, but are they my personal favourite? I think not.

So, here goes.

10 - Walt Simonson on
Fantastic Four
9 - Alan Moore, J.H. Williams, and Mick Gray on
Promethea
8 - Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev on
Daredevil
7 - Grant Morrison, et al, on
Animal Man
6 - Alan Moore, et al on
Swamp Thing

Simonson's run on
Fantastic Four is ridiculous awesome because, as with most things on this list, it's widescreen balls-to-the-wall epic action. There's a singularity or something, and it's eating the entire omniverse, and it's Galactus, and the Fantastic Four, Iron Man and Thor drive a timeslad called Rosebud (ha) into the end of the universe and beat up a Celestial. Yeah. Then, the Time Variance Authority, who controls the timestream, puts the Fantastic Four on trial for all of their time-traveling. And there's this issue, which is ballin'!

Promethea is Alan Moore's painfully complex didactic comic book story about stories and the Kabbalah. But this isn't Madonna's Kabbalah; this is the entire thing in minute detail with visual metaphors. Ostensibly, the series is about Promethea, a fictional superheroine (or science-hero as the series calls them) who inhabits a storyteller in time of need. The main character, Sophie, becomes Promethea by writing a poem about her, and for most of the series, goes on a metaphysical journey through the 32 paths of Kaballah. Just like Moore's other works, this is a structuralist's paradise. Everything has been organized perfectly, down to the smallest tiniest details. It also helps that J. H. Williams and Mick Gray's art is beyond belief beautiful. For each metaphysical realm the characters enter, the art and style matches that realm, for example, the angry Hades-like realm is drawn red and charcoal-y. There's also a double-page spread of the characters walking a Moebius strip, which you could read forever. It's stunning work.

When Bendis and Maleev started on
Daredevil, they weren't the top dogs they are now. Bendis was famous mostly for his crime comics and his work for Image Comics. But right out of the gate, Bendis and Maleev take Matt Murdock on a wild and crazy ride, redefining the Man Without Fear and coming out from underneath Frank Miller's shadow. The whole arc is based around identity, documents, and power. Murdock's identity is outed to the papers, and he spends most of his time trying to fight that losing battle. He also watches the Kingpin go down, watches people try to take over, and then finally he himself takes over. Creating a complex chronology and a complex system of themes, Bendis creates a really solid run that features Maleev's gritty photorealistic style (much better than Gaydos' - a frequent Bendis collaborator).

I came back to comics because of Grant Morrison's run on
Animal Man. I had drifted away thanks to Spider-clones and mega X-events, but came back after hearing about the environmental issues, the emotion, the metafictional elements present in this Scot's reinvigorating of Animal Man, a third-tier DC superhero long forgotten. Lovingly immersed in continuity and Crisis On Infinite Earths, and lovingly immersed in metafiction, this is the story of Buddy Baker, a man who can emulate any animal's traits. Morrison takes him from the sea saving dolphins to the desert trying to help a Wile E Coyote analogy, all the while, standing back, a passive viewer in his own life. This finally comes to an end when Buddy Baker is faced with his own writer: Grant Morrison himself. It's a stunning issue, and easily one of the best single issues ever.

And Alan Moore appears a second time on the list with his acclaimed and classic and highly influential run on
Swamp Thing, the series that gave him his big break. A lot has been said about what Moore added to the deep mythology of the DC universe, including Cain and Abel, the Elemental ideas, the Parliament of Trees, John Constantine, but for me, the reason why this run is so great is for the gorgeous and tender love story at the center. I don't think I'd ever seen anything so beautiful as when Swamp Thing and Abby are reunited after ten issues. Or when Swamp Thing comes to Gotham, kicks the city's ass, and takes on the Batman, all for Abby's love. It's very beautiful. And of course, Moore's run is complex and engaging and emotional and funny and horrific and influential. It's all gravy.

I will continue with the second half of the Top 10 Comic Book Runs tomorrow. Join us.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Frugal Fridays!

Jeez, it's already April 11th and it's Friday, so let's take a look at what's been purchased the past week.

Duma Key by Stephen King
I'm not going to lie, I'm a huge fan of King. There's something about his lackadaisical storytellin' that's homespun and old school that really hits the spot with me. The grandiose epic of the Dark Tower also made me love him for more than simple cheap scares. The premise of
Duma Key is that this guy is in a terrible construction accident and he loses an arm, so he moves to a tropical locale and paints with the remaining arm and then strange things happen with the paintings. This is a more character based horror than, say, Cell. This might be closer to Rose Madder, which is fine with me. I have six billion books to read, and I didn't really need to buy this. Oh well. Here's hoping it's good.

Lonely Planet's Guide to California

I picked this up with my girlfriend, because we're planning on driving to California for two weeks, as per my summer plans. According to her, this is the better guidebook because there's no ads, there's lots of information and not a lot of filler. So on her recommendation, we went halfers on it (or we went dutch, depending on your slang preference).

The Punisher Volume 4, issues 13 through 26 and 32.
Slowly but surely, I am going to pick up the complete Garth Ennis run on
The Punisher. I've been eyeing the hardcovers for the MAX series, but I've been a little wary considering I already spend way too much money on things. Anyway, I've been focusing a lot on the Ennis and Dillon collaborations rather than Ennis and somebody else. This run features a very funny team up between Wolverine and Castle, as drawn by Darick Robertson, and the return of Joan, from Volume 4, which is a very tender and funny and violent episode. Ennis has that remarkable ability to infuse real depth in such ridiculous characters.

The Authority: Scorched Earth
With this one-shot, I have completed my entire Authority run, with the exception of the Devil's Night annual, which is terrible and I see no need to include it. This particular one-shot sees the supergroup fighting the Sun, or rather the personification of the Sun in the form of former Stormwatch member, Winter. It's a decent story, but the art is over-rendered. It's okay.

So that's my Frugal Friday for this week. Hope you have a great one. I know I will.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fantastic Four 556


World's Greatest part three of four continues with issue 556 of Millar and Hitch's Fantastic Four. As previously posted, "a lay of the land" has been enjoying this arc so far, but it hasn't thrown me around like Ultimates did. So let's take a look.

In Alaska, C.A.P. is kicking some serious army guy butt as his programming decrees. His death ray reduces people to skeletons. Ballin'. At the Nu-World project HQ, people are flipping out and Alyssa, Reed's old flame, tells them to call SHIELD and get every super-powered business in CAP's grill, but Reed is still out of universe and won't be back for awhile.

At Johnny Storm's apartment, that sexy hot supervillain is leaving and putting on pants, giving Hitch the chance to draw some panties on a hot girl. He begs her not to tell anybody, but at the same time, the reality show producers are setting up shop in his living room. Uh-oh, plot development. Then he's called to battle.

The Fantastic Four (sans Reed) converge on Alaska, where CAP has taken out pretty much everybody, resulting in a nice splash page for Hitch to draw. CAP and the three Fantastic have a pretty cool fight, but CAP kicks some serious butt.

We cut to the HQ where people are going apesh*t and then we cut to Reed, riding a spacecycle saying "never fear, Reed Richards it here" or something like that. To be continued.

Here we go. Here's a fight scene for you. Here's a specific panel for you to enjoy: Yeah, that's the Human Torch pouring on the heat.

This issue has got the plot moving, as simple as that plot might be, and we slowly move the subplots further along. I know that this isn't going to be a self-contained arc, that this will develop further arcs on Millar and Hitch's apparent 16 issue run. So I'm okay with the simplicity of the "big bad robot takes on the Fantastic Four" plot.

Hitch's pencils are damn good on this issue. If he was rushed earlier, it was because he was saving the main juice for this fight. Dayyymn.

Now the bad. The dialogue is pretty ho-hum and this whole "Johnny boning a supervillain" ain't all that interesting. His reality show thing was a good joke for the first issue, but not very funny in the third issue. Oh well.

I'm going to keep reading this, and so should you. Enjoy!

ClanDestine Classic


After the success of Captain Britain, Alan Davis was pretty much given free space to do whatever he wanted, as long as it was a team book. So he racked his brain and came up with a roster that represented his appreciation of family, and that's ClanDestine, which isn't really a team book in the normal sense of the idea, nor is it even a superhero book. It's a book about a family with superpowers.

I picked up the hardcover collecting issues 1 through 8 of Davis' ClanDestine, including the X-Men/ClanDestine mini-series that tied up a couple loose ends from the first run. Rightfully uncollected, there's also issues 9 through 12 of the series, which was not done with Davis, and which Davis retconned away as a dream in the aforementioned mini-series.

Of course, Davis' pencils are terrific. That's not up for debate. What I was surprised by was how excellent the writing was on the series. Not only was ClanDestine a fairly unique spin on the supergroup, but it was also a fairly intelligent comment on superheroics in the Marvel Universe. The social commentary, plus the excellent organic family chemistry made me totally love this.

Adam Destine has received the gift of immortality from his djinn lover, and his children, who are also fairly longlasting, have received superpowers as a result of the coupling. Of all the siblings that make up the Clan Destine, Rory and Pandora are the only twins, and their powers have developed a lot earlier than the other siblings' powers. Inspired by costumed heroes, Rory and Pandora put on stupid tights and go out and fight crime, which threatens the anonymity of the entire family.

Each of the main characters in the family are clearly identified and fleshed out very quickly. Davis takes about two issues to introduce everybody and when he has, he cleverly uses dialogue to draw them all out. I was very impressed by the skill that Davis shows in making these characters come alive.

And, he keeps it moving very quickly with a plot that slowly reveals itself, rather than all at once. Similar to the slow unfurling of
The Nail, Davis lets only pieces of the puzzle be shown. It's quite skillful.

The only bad thing about this book is that it was canceled. I would have loved to have seen Davis do more with this, including revealing the fates of some of the siblings mentioned in passing, as well as the mysterious murder of Vincent, the "evil" brother. Luckily, Davis is hard at work on a 5 issue volume 2 of ClanDestine, so look for a review of that later.

I recommend this highly to fans of X-Men or Avengers or JLA. This is a team book that shines with wit, character, warmth, intelligence and damn good artwork. I love Alan Davis.

Mini-Reviews!

It's been almost a week since I last posted, and it's because of fun-fun-fun. I'm on vacation right now from work and from other responsibilities until later today. I have to clean the house and do some laundry, so while I'm doing that, I thought I'd post about what I've been doing the past week, and I'll do it in the form of Mini-Reviews.

The Ruins

The movie was good, the book was perfect. Without going into crazy spoilers, the last third of the film version is very very very different than the second half of the book. The adaptation is done by the author himself, so I can see why some changes were needed. There's a certain plot development in the book that won't really translate well to an audio-visual version of the story, and I understand why it was cut out. I can't say I loved the movie as much as I loved the book, but as survival horror films go, this is a pretty intense workout.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

I had wanted to see this in the theater, but circumstances stopped me from seeing it until last night. I managed to watch the unrated extended version, which apparently features more frontal male nudity and more Patrick Duffy, I guess. I thought the film was funny, if sometimes glaringly obvious like a foghorn. John C Reilly has been one of my favourite actors since Boogie Nights, and it was awesome to see him in a lead role. He has no problem carrying the entire film. Of course, it helps that the film is packed with terrific comedic actors such as Kirsten Wiig, Jenna Fischer, Tim Meadows, Chris Parnell, Jonah Hill, and of course, the infamous Beatles cameo, which is easily the highlight of the entire film. So I enjoyed the movie, certainly, and I enjoyed the songs greatly, probably more than the film itself.

JLA:
The Nail

Yes, Alan Davis is the man, dog. His three issue Elseworlds tale that's high on action and Silver Age characters and low on introspection and metaphors. This is high octane balls-to-the-wall featuring a huge cast of awesome timeless DC characters. It also helps that Davis' art is fantastic, and he's obviously learned a lot about story and plot from one Mister A. Moore. And I think the sequel's just as good, if not more action-y.

Earth X

I got the entire Earth X trilogy this week, and I've finished the first part. Here is a series that is so steeped in Marvel mythology that anybody without knowledge of it is going to be lost forever in this labyrinth of ancient history. It saddens me, though, that the Celestials are painted as the bad guys, even though I've always found them to be fairly hardcore. The art is kind of muddy, but it improves with the second and third parts of the trilogy. I like Alex Ross' paintings, but in small doses, so this thing actually appeals to me more than Mark Waid's overly religious Kingdom Come.

Amazing Spider-Man 555

In part two of Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo's Brand New Day arc, Spidey is stuck in a blizzard and is attacked by an ancient Mayan god while the mad scientist that Spidey saved earlier is madder than originally thought. Here's some classic Spider-Man action for you with some terrific artwork and a fairly perfect way to slowly move subplots along. If it wasn't for the dubious retcon that preceded Brand New Day, I'd say that this current arc is one of the finest non-important Spider-Man arcs of the past few years.

So later today, I will post about the new Fantastic Four release and maybe about the ClanDestine hardcover I picked up earlier this week. See you soon!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Punisher: Volume 4 Issue 2


The combo of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon is pretty damn unmatched, except by maybe Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch or Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (or Lee and Kirby). Preacher is my favourite non-superhero work ever, and it increases in esteem with each day. So I was tickled pink that I was able to pick up Ennis' initial 12 issue run on The Punisher for Marvel Knights, a more mature imprint of comics.

Instead of the later Punisher that Ennis is much more known for, these first 12 issues are hilarious, big on Ennis-style jokes, and plenty of excessive violence. The first line of the entire series is "...and get a haircut" with Frank holding an Uzi under the chin of a guy with a ponytail and a white suit. Frank then proceeds to blow 'em up real good.

The 12 issues have an overarching plot, about Frank living anonymously in an apartment building, and taking on the Gnucci crime family, with hilarious maiming by polar bear. There's also numerous subplots that Ennis juggles, including three vigilantes modeled after Frank, the unluckiest cop in the world, and a Russian that's indestructible.

After first arc, the series ended, but restarted again with Volume 4. Picking up some of the same plot points, including the seemingly invulnerable Russian, Ennis and Dillon go all out this time, with a fix on an ongoing plot.

In the first issue, the Russian comes back, but this time he's been enhanced by surgery, including breast implants (snort, chuckle). But it's the second issue I want to look at, the one that guest-stars Spider-Man. So essentially, Frank and the Russian are fighting atop of a skyscraper, and Frank is thrown over the side, but Spidey saves him, and because he's a do-gooder, Spidey throws himself at the Russian, trying to help, but each time, the Russian smacks him away as if he were an insect.

Presenting... THE BEST SPIDER-MAN/PUNISHER TEAM-UP EVER WRITTEN:


Yes, only Garth Ennis could write Frank using Spider-Man as a shield. Man that's funny. There's a Friday Night Fight for you, if only Bahlactus hadn't closed the festivities.

Certainly, this issue shows Ennis' disdain for the superhero genre, showing men in garish tights as being ineffectual against real threats in the real world, which include former Soviet war machines. It's only Frank's vicious ruthlessness that wins the day, rather a sense of responsibility or honour. And that's why Ennis kicks ass, because his characters kick ass with no scruples.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Authority: Prime


I've gone on record saying I love The Authority: the mix of widescreen action, terrific ideas and dialogue, interesting characters and widescreen action makes me squeal with glee. So, after Grant Morrison's disastrous attempt to restart The Authority, Christos Gage and Darick Robertson take on the legendary superteam with The Authority: Prime. How did it go?

Stormwatch has discovered a secret bunker in the middle of the desert that Henry Bendix had hidden, so the new Weatherman (Bendix's son) sends the new Stormwatch Prime to unearth it, sort out the dangerous from the helpful, and keep what can be used. The Authority, who operates on their own rules, while Stormwatch is a UN thing, don't like this idea, and they show up, all of them, to stop Stormwatch from getting into that bunker. What follows is a three issue fight between the two teams, then a fight between the bunker's guards (reanimated corpses of the secret Stormwatch, Apollo and Midnighter's old team) and then finally, a clone of Bendix armed with all of Stormwatch's powers.

Here's the thing, for the first four issues, this was really a cover album of greatest hits, like a tribute band doing all of ABBA Gold. We were hitting all the requisite beats of an Authority comic, including Midnighter saying his "I've calculated this fight to a million moves" speech. It's not until Jackson King, the former Weatherman, gets his mental powers into the fray does it become interesting. When the Authority's godlike powers are diverted, leaving them close to human, the fight becomes fascinating.

Really, though, if Stormwatch and the Authority went at it, Stormwatch would last five minutes. It doesn't seem realistic that a team that killed God (literally) and the Avengers (or a facsimile of them) would be so easily defeated by Stormwatch, a team that a) hasn't killed God and b) isn't the Avengers.

The best bit in the entire mini-series is when Jackson turns off the mental implants in Midnighter's head and he takes on Hellstrike, an Irish sex maniac that's also a sentient cloud of green gas. Without any implants, Midnighter relies on simple battle tactics based on the strengths and weaknesses of his opponent. Here's the full page:

Chris Sims would be happy with that face kick. And it's not the only one. In that single issue alone.

There's a couple great lines from Midnighter, and some decent character work for him, too. He hopes to figure out who he was before Bendix made him who he was. Gage does a good job showing the difference between Apollo and Midnighter, the latter knowing that he is who he makes himself to be.

As well, Jack Hawksmoor gets a great moment, but only one in the series, it seems. He shows up to fight the super-powered Bendix with a city from Arizona in humanoid shape. It's fairly badass.

But you see what I mean by "greatest hits"? A badass giant thing killing one guy? I saw it in the fourth issue of the first volume. Bendix coming back from the dead and messing with Midnighter's head? I saw it in the Revolution maxi-series. A reference to a sextape?

It's like Gage has the Authority checklist and is trying to hit all the major points. I mean, I liked it and was entertained, but the level of writing and art was so average that I almost just gave up and read the first volume instead.

Robertson's art on this series is so sketchy and dark and muddy and unclear that it's horrible. I like Robertson's art, especially on Transmetropolitan, where it's cartoony and clean and fun. This is murky, and I'm not sure if I should blame Robertson or the inker. Hmm... I just checked it, and I like Robertson inked it himself. Okay then, his art is just terrible on this. People's faces are all wonky and change features from panel to panel. Swift doesn't look anything like her previous appearances and Jenny Quantum seems to have lost her Asian descent (similar to Joe Mad's Ultimates Vol 3). It's just that if you're going to do The Authority, you need highly detailed, big widescreen art that's clear, and this art is none of that.

I was very disappointed in this mini-series. It said nothing new about The Authority, and it was like nothing had happened once we reached the end. I wasn't impressed. Recommended only for diehard fans of The Authority.