Monthly Archives: August 2010

I Am Literally Melting

Dick Grayson as Batman and Damian as Robin

WOW. It is too hot out. Way too damn hot out.
Today was the first day at North Hampton, and besides melting in my shoes, it went really well! The student I’m working with is a pretty funny kid, and the staff are all really great. All in all it’s been a pretty sweet day. But now we’re going to get into some comic book news. News that I’m sure is going to cause a pretty big divide amongst my fellow nerds.

DC’s blog “The Source” has revealed its plans for the “Batman” franchise when Bruce Wayne makes his inevitable return in a few months. Up until now, Bruce Wayne was thought to be dead, when in fact he was really just stuck in time, moving from one time period to the other. Meanwhile, in present day Gotham, Dick Grayson, the first Robin, took up the mantle of the Bat and became Gotham’s new Dark Knight, with Bruce’s alleged son Damian becoming the new Robin.

However, DC started publishing The Return Of Bruce Wayne, leading many Bat-fans (myself included) to ask themselves “so…what will happen to Dick Grayson?” Up until now, I was really enjoying Dick Grayson as Batman, something I will admit that I didn’t think I was going to at first. But now that Bruce Wayne IS coming back, apparently there is going to be two Batmen: Dick Grayson will remain in Gotham, while Bruce Wayne will travel the world, assembling a team of “Dark Knights”.

Bruce Wayne’s “new” costume

To me, this could go two ways. It could be really cool, or really, really awful. And considering Grant Morrison’s recent track record of Bat-books (Batman and Robin excluded) doesn’t fill me with much hope. Maybe it’s because I got used to Dick Grayson as Batman, or maybe its because Marvel already did this with Cap, but I’ve got a really bad feeling about this, especially when DC editor in chief Dan DiDio says that Bruce’s intentions are to “build a Starbucks-style franchise of Dark Knights”.

Maybe it’s because I grew up reading 90’s comics, but for me Batman works best as a character when he has fewer allies and more trust issues.  Creating a team of Bat-men does fit into Bruce Wayne’s obsessive desire to fight crime, but one of his big deals and flaws is that he can’t trust anyone. Bruce Wayne is Batman because he has trained himself to absolute perfection, and doesn’t trust anyone to complete a task(see JLA: Tower Of Babel). Again, I could be completely wrong about this, but my initial reaction to this news is that it’s really out of character for Bruce. Hopefully Grant Morrison has some crazy good idea for his motivations.

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It Begins….

Today is the first day of my career at North Hampton Middle School. Although it’s not a full day, this will be my first time actually meeting the team of teachers that I’ll be working with, and meeting some of the students at their open house/cookout.  Tomorrow will be the orientation day for new teachers, and I’m pretty excited to finally be doing something career-wise that’s in line with my degree. In other news, I recently watched Batman: Under The Red Hood, and here’s my review!

Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010)
Voices: Bruce Greenwood (Batman), Jensen Ackles (Red Hood), John Di Maggio (The Joker), Neil Patrick Harris (Nightwing)

Well well well, color me surprised. I’ll be upfront, any new animated “Batman” anything is going to be fighting an uphill battle, mainly because DC and Warner Brothers had already achieved perfection with Batman: The Animated Series back in the ’90s. To this day, whenever I read anything Batman related, I hear Kevin Conroy’s voice as Batman, and the legendary Mark Hamill as The Joker.
BUT, the most recent title from Warner Brother’s new animation department has hit, and it’s very good. Under The Red Hood is an adaptation of the comic storyline from a few years ago (written by Real World: San Francisco‘s Judd Winick, no joke!), and it’s a very solid adaptation. In fact, I think the big reveal surrounding the Red Hood was pulled off better in this than in the original storyline.
The plot is a standard mystery, as Batman (voiced by Star Trek’s Bruce Greenwood) must uncover the identity of the new Red Hood (Jensen Ackles), a vigilante who is killing off many of Gotham City’s mob bosses in a bid for power.  As he and Nightwing(Neil Patrick Harris) investigate this new enemy, all signs point to him being Jason Todd, the second Robin who was killed by The Joker (John Di Maggio).
The voice work in this release was really well done, and John Di Maggio in particular really impressed me. Even if you don’t know his name, you’ll recognize his voice as Futurama’s Bender and Adventure Time‘s Jake the Dog. While no one can top Mark Hamill as the clown prince of crime, Mr. Di Maggio certainly carved out his own niche. His Joker is a lot darker and more sinister, and when the former Luke Skywalker silences his Joker, then I hope that Di Maggio is the first person that Warner Bros. calls. Listen for yourself!
Under The Red Hood is a must see for Batman fans, and is a solid rental for those who are curious. You don’t need to know anything about the characters prior to watching it, and it serves as one of the best Warner Bros. animation releases.
3 1/2 Batarangs out of 4

It’s Raining

It is absolutely POURING rain outside. I’m contemplating building a raft.
COMIC REVIEWS!!!!

                                                          Avengers #4

Thanks, Brian Michael Bendis, for finally getting to the friggin’ point four issues into the new Avengers series. I was this close to dropping this book, but it seems as if the plot has finally moved forward after three issues that contained two fights and a whole lot of sitting around talking.
This issue finds Iron Man, Captain America, Wolverine, and Marvel Boy making their way to one of the possible  future time lines, where they are “saved” by their future children, along with the future Hulk, The Maestro. Apparently this is a different, non-evil version of The Maestro, as he seems excited to see Tony Stark and co. Meanwhile, in the present, a bunch of characters from alternate time lines seem to be popping up in modern day New York City, leaving Spider-man, Thor, Hawkeye, and Spider-woman to clean up the mess and try and make sense of it all. While I’m glad to finally start seeing some momentum building in this title, I’m still on the fence as to keep following it. I’m going to give it one more issue. If you only have to get one “Avengers” title, then pick up Secret Avengers.

Batman #702

Remember how I said that issue 701 of Batman would hopefully lead to some answers as to what happened to Bruce Wayne between “R.I.P.” and “Final Crisis”? Well, you don’t exactly get them. Much like Grant Morrison’s recent outputs at DC, for every answer you get, you end up with two or three more questions.
Like the one before it, this issue fills in more of the gaps between Batman’s investigations of the “god bullet” from “Final Crisis”.  The issue breaks up into segments that take place before, during, and after the “Final Crisis” event. We follow Bruce as he initially begins the investigation into the death of Orion,  to his capture by Darkseid. We also get the feeling (or at least I did), that Bruce knew about the “time travel” of the Omega Beam, and how time has now changed due to Bruce being sent back. I think……cause Darkseid was holding this box thing when he hit Batman with his omega beam, that somehow affects time or something. The narrative was somewhat easy to follow, though I did tend to get lost at points due to all of the time jumps, as seen by the above sentence.
I get the feeling that if I read these two issues directly after “Final Crisis” they’d be easier to follow, but I have no real strong desire to go back and re-read that confusing mess. While I find it interesting to see Bruce’s thoughts during his investigation, and “death”, I’m starting to get a little tired of the hype surrounding Bruce Wayne’s return. However, DC, like all companies, is going to hype this thing to no end, so it’s just something we’ve gotta deal with. I’m sticking with it.   

Archeologist of the Unknown

The other day I finished one of the best comic book series I’ve ever read. Hands down. It’s called Planetary, and it’s something that I believe transcends the genre, much like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns before it. In all seriousness, you need to seek this out.

Written by Warren Ellis and drawn by John Cassaday, Planetary follows the adventures of Elijah Snow, Jakita Wagner, and The Drummer as they search out for Earth’s secrets, which include everything from giant Godzilla-type monsters to ghosts. Each member of the “Planetary Organization” has different powers, with Snow being able to generate intense cold (and is seemingly immortal), Wagner having the usual superstrength, and The Drummer being able to “talk” to machines and see the inner workings of not only them, but the world around him. As they are searching for Earth’s secrets, they continually come into conflict with “The Four”, a team of four super-powered individuals (sound familiar?) who are stealing Earth’s secrets to prevent humanity from reaching its full potential.

But that synopsis isn’t doing the series justice. Each issue is completely different from the other, and Ellis and Cassaday really show how modern fiction influences the series, touching on everything from John Woo action films to the grim and gritty comics of the 80’s that changed the industry, for good and for bad. Ellis even touches on pulp action heroes and classic literary characters like Sherlock Holmes and Dracula, creating a world that seemingly contains every genre of fiction that authors in our world have created.

One of the great things about Planetary is the fact that while it contains an overarching story, each issue has its own beginning, middle, and ending, something that is unfortunately missing from many modern comic books, where we typically get 6 part events and mega-crossovers. This means that readers can pick up any issue and instantly get an idea and “feel” for the series. While the entire series is only 27 issues long, you can pick up the trades or the two “Absolute” editions of the series, and engross yourself in this ingenious world that Warren Ellis and John Cassaday have created.

Fighting For The Goal!

Holy crap, what a weekend. The brakes in my car went, so for the time being I’m rocking my mom’s Jeep Compass, which is actually really effing awesome. It’s pretty sweet knowing that I can effectively destroy nearly anything that could get in my way on the road. The auto shop in Rochester said that they’d try to get it fixed before the middle of the week, so hopefully I’ll be back in the four cylinders of chaos by the end of the week.

Today’s topic was actually inspired by a blog entry from alert the audience!, a blog written by a buddy of mine who also wrote for UNH’s Main Street Magazine while I was on staff there. In his post from last Wednesday, alert’s topic was on the “Mighty Ducks” movies, specifically D3: The Mighty Ducks. Which we won’t be talking about here. No no no. we’re going to delve into something much, much more strange…..and of course, nerdy.

Aside from the fact that Disney couldn’t be bothered to create subheadings for their Mighty Ducks movie series, they had the audacity to release a “Mighty Ducks” cartoon.

“What’s so wrong about that? I bet it was like Recess, but with more hockey!” you may say.
You are wrong. So very, very wrong.

The Mighty Ducks premiered in 1996, and followed a race of humanoid ducks from the planet “Puckworld” in an alternate dimension. Apparently Puckworld is NHL central, and under constant distress from the evil Saurians. After the Saurians attack Puckworld and kill their leader, Canard, the team of ducks follow them to Earth, where they protect our planet while playing hockey.  Oh, their new leader is also Wildwing, the actual mascot of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

Emilio Estevez is on the right, if you’re wondering

Even as a seven year old, this idea seemed ridiculous. NO ONE brings up the fact that these are GIANT DUCKS during any of the pre or post-game reports? Do they migrate like real ducks? Can they communicate with ducks on our planet? Do they lay giant duck eggs? Also notice that there are only two female members of the team. Interesting.

“That was a great drive you had  back there, Wildwing. Whoops, you seem to be molting again.”

And how must the other teams that they play feel? I’d imagine at first they’d be really freaked out, not to mention worried about PETA potentially protesting the games. Also, why would people be completely okay with giant alien ducks playing hockey, instead of, you know, SHARING their knowledge of space and inter-dimensional travel.
“No it’s cool, you guys keep getting penalty shots and power plays. Humanity’s got DVR’s and smart phones, we’re good.”

“Bradburn, you go left. Phillips, you go right. The rest of you, tackle that giant duck.”

The Mighty Ducks obviously suffered from “Ninja Turtles” syndrome, in which “creators” ripped off Eastman and Laird’s creation by creating their own humanoid animal and giving it a weird trait (the Ninja Turtles liked pizza, so the Ducks liked hockey). This theory can also be seen in such 90’s cartoons as Street Sharks, Barnyard Commandos,  Extreme Dinosaurs,  and of course, Biker Mice From Mars.

The ultimate EXTREME 90’S BATTLE!

Rockin’ and Rollin’

What another mind-numbingly long day at Staples. Thankfully today was my last 8 hour shift there EVER, and all I have is ten hours until freedom…and a new job. Tomorrow is going to be a rather busy day, hence why I’m posting today and not tomorrow. Since I’m posting a day in advance, how about I post about something I was going to talk about yesterday? That’s right, NEW COMIC REVIEWS!

Wolverine: Weapon X #16

Just as I was ready to give up on this series, writer Jason Aaron throws this issue at me. Aaron is one of my top writers at Marvel, even though the previous storyline in Wolvie’s series was stretched reaaaaalll thin.
Aaron’s spot on characterization of Logan once again makes this a must read. This single issue story(which are becoming more and more rare in comics these days) deals with the recent death of SPOILER!!! Nightcrawler SPOILER!!!! during the “Second Coming” story arc. I’ve been trade waiting that storyline, but the previous two were rock solid, and not knowing the intricate details to that storyline does not lessen the impact that this issue has.
As per his friend’s dying wish, Logan must bring a piano to a monestary in Venezuela. That is located on top of a mountain. Logan’s stubbornness and devotion to his friend means that he’s going to bring it there, even if it takes him 8 days (it does). Along the way, we are given flashbacks to Logan and Nightcrawler’s many interactions, and Aaron not only gives an amazing portrayal of Wolverine here, but Nightcrawler as well. While I am upset that one of my favorite X-Men was killed off, this issue serves as a great eulogy for the “blue elf”. Plus, he’ll be back, cause it’s a comic book, and no one ever dies in comic books.

Ultimate Avengers 2 #6 (of 6)

Holy crap. Once again, Mark Millar shows us how he’s the “Michael Bay” of comics, as Nick Fury’s black ops team confronts (or more like watches) Ghost Rider, who’ve they’ve been tracking the entire second volume. This issue sees Johnny Blaze do battle with the man who sacrificed his girlfriend, who also turns out to be the vice president of the United States, who also becomes his own Ghost Rider as well.
The action in this issue is straight up, balls to the wall insanity, and I loved every minute of it. I especially liked the ultimate version of Ghost Rider, and I hope to god he gets spun off into his own mini-series or ongoing, cause he was awesome in this. I also really liked the British Hulk, even if all of these Hulk “variants” are getting a little out of hand. His backstory though is extremely interesting and begs to be fleshed out. All in all I really enjoyed this team, and I can’t wait to see what Mr. Millar does with them, whether it will be in Ultimate Avengers 3 or some other book. I just really want more Ultimate Ghost Rider.
 

The Calm Before The Storm

Now that I’m in the twilight of my Staples career, it’s amazing how less stressful that job is.  In fact, everyone has been really great towards me there, probably because I’ve been filling in for the people who haven’t been showing up for their shifts.
As kind of a “congrats on getting a REAL job” gift to myself, I finally picked up Borderlands, and as awesome as this game is, I feel like this is the absolute worst time I could’ve picked it up. Next week is going to be a whirlwind of meetings and signing contracts and mentally preparing myself to step back into the educational world, and already all I want to do is level up my hunter so I can play online with my roommate and not get destroyed.
Now I’m well aware that it’s Wednesday, which typically means NEW COMICS!!!!….but I have to go to work in about an hour, so I don’t gots the time to read them. However, here’s my review of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. 

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Director: Edgar Wright

To me, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is like the cliff-notes version of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novels. At six volumes, there’s no way that the movie could have fit in everything that O’Malley created. Much like Watchmen, I think it’s better to see the movie FIRST, and then read the graphic novel if you liked it, as it fleshes everything out, and delves more deeply in Scott’s past relationships.
All that being said, I really enjoyed this movie. Edgar Wright’s style was so in sync with the source material that at times the graphic novel was literally moving on the page. The movie follows the first 4 volumes of the comics nearly beat for beat, but then goes off and does its own thing, staying with the tone of the graphic novels.
The cast, was simply, phenomonal. Even Mr. Cera, who I’ll admit I was getting really sick of, does a great job portraying Scott, and his roommate Wallace, played by Kieran Culkin, IS the embodiment of Scott’s roommate. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is also amazing as Ramona Flowers, the girl who’s “seven evil exes” Scott must do battle with. And the exes, specifically Chris Evans and Brandon Routh, are hilarious.
The soundtrack also made the movie. Beck supplies all of the songs by Sex Bob-Omb, Scott’s band, and there were numerous musical cues to things like Seinfeld and even The Legend Of Zelda, which I will admit, make me geek out, a LOT.
My only real complaint with the movie was that I wish they had fleshed out many of the supporting characters…like they did in the graphic novel. But again, there’s no way they could have done a full adaptation in two hours. Hopefully we’ll get an extended edition on DVD that contains more Wallace Welsh, because we could all use more Wallace Welsh.
3 1/2 Evil Exes out of 4 

The End of an Era

And so today marks the end of a (thankfully) short career at Staples. That’s right, I handed in my notice this week, and it went surprisingly well. Apparently North Hampton’s school district starts up within the next few weeks, including their new teacher orientation NEXT Monday, so unfortunately for Staples I’m on a bit of a time crunch for planning and getting everything in order to be a real big person. My manager was surprisingly very cool with the whole ordeal, and I’m only scheduled for 17 hours next week, quite the drop off from my 32 that I’ve been averaging. We did leave it open for me to return at some point in the near future if things quiet down on the teacher front, but I doubt that will happen.
In other news, today was another historic first for me: it was my first trip to the Dover laundromat. I decided to go to the “Cleary’s Cleaners” as I already had my suit dry-cleaned there with fantastic results. Unfortunately their laundromat was an absolute shit show. Apparently they run on these weird “cleaner cards”, which was great because I hadn’t already stopped at Citizens Bank and gotten $5 worth of quarters (sarcasm). After trading in the coinage for the cash, I then proceeded to awkwardly fiddle with the cash card machine for about ten minutes until a very nice old lady came and walked me through the process. She also walked me through how to use the washer…..and the dryer. Thanks.
All in all, it wasn’t all that bad after looking like a complete idiot at the cash card machine. It only took a little over an hour to wash and dry my clothes, and I got a decent junk of The Passage read, which is pretty phenomenal so far. I’m sure I’ll be posting more this week as my Staples co-workers all slowly realize that I am leaving them, possibly for forever.

SHA-ZAM!

Boo YAH! After months of stressing out and worrying over having to work at Staples for the rest of my life, I was finally given a job offer today! It’s a teaching assistant position at a middle school, and while it’s not entirely what I may have wanted, it’s still a job, and it gets my foot in the door. I’m more excited to finally be able to tell Staples to shove it, as I’ve only been there about a month now and I already hate it. It’s going to be interesting telling them that I’m leaving so soon though. Oh well, maybe I’ll get lucky and they’ll tell me to leave earlier.  God knows I’m going to have enough on my plate trying to get into school mode.
Anyways, not only did I have two job interviews this week, which led to this amazing news, I also saw two movies this week. Two very, very different movies. On to the reviews!

The Other Guys (2010)
Director: Adam McKay
Starring: Will Ferrel, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Keaton
Well, well, well, what a pleasant surprise. I’ll admit, I was starting to grow tired of Will Ferrell’s shtick by now, but this movie was hilarious! What worked about this movie was that it seemed like a regular cop movie with Will Ferrel’s character thrown in the mix. The threat was actually something real world (it involved insider trading and other bank schemes), and Wahlberg’s character was almost like the less successful cousin of his character in The Departed. Michael Keaton steals that show as their captain, who is constantly exasperated by the antics of these two wannabe cops (whether he means to look it or not). This is definitely the funniest movie of the summer. 3 1/2  Keaton eyebrows out of 4

The Expendables (2010)
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren
Holy god, action movies are BACK! The Expendables is the most manly movie I’ve ever seen. The action scenes are completely over the top, the dialogue corny as hell, and the plot is thinner than a wafer cracker, but my god if this wasn’t one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen in a theater. This movie was a release of all of the pent-up aggresion and testosterone that has been missing from American cinema since the late 90’s. Everyone in this movie had their moment to shine, and by far the coolest character was Statham. My only wish is that we could’ve had MORE members of the Expendables team, but that’s for a sequel. Which I hope to god they make. If you are a man you need to see this movie!!!!!
4 Mickey Rourke cowboy hats out of 4 

You may be wondering where my Scott Pilgrim vs. The World review is. Well, unfortunately it’s probably going to be a little while until I can catch it. I’ve got Monday and Tuesday off, so depending on what I need to do for North Hampton middle school I’ll try to check it out on one of those days.

Mr. Hollywood

With the recent news that his comic series Nemesis is going to be adapted to film by director Tony Scott, and the release of Kick-Ass on DVD, today we’re going to focus on Mr. Mark Millar, the writer of the comics behind films like Wanted and the previously mentioned Kick-Ass.  But for all of you nerd-noobs out there, the “Michael Bay Of Comics” hasn’t ONLY written original creator-owned comics. He’s actually crafted some very cool and unique stories for both Marvel and DC, many of which would make absolutely bitchin’ comic book movies. So let’s take a look at some of Millar’s storylines from the big two, and dream about living in a world where comic characters aren’t owned by different movie studios.


Superman: Red Son
 Superman lands in the Ukraine instead of Kansas. This simple premise is the start of one of Millar’s most widely known and celebrated works, and one of the absolute best Superman stories out there. Taking full advantage of DC’s “elseworlds” imprint,  Millar paints a very different world for the heroes of the DC universe, all from having the ship that sends baby Kal-El land on the other side of the world. Superman becomes the symbol for the Soviets, causing our country to turn to Lex Luthor to stop this “communist threat”.  Unfortunately its one of the only stories Millar did for DC, as he and the company had a brief falling out before the book was published. If Warner Bros. was serious about taking their Superman film rights in bold new directions, this is the place to start.

Wolverine: Enemy Of The State
Much like Red Son, Millar’s first stint writing the mutant known as Logan (er, James Howlett) is based on a simple premise: What if Wolverine was a villain? The Enemy Of The State storyline has ‘ol canucklehead “killed” by the Hand ninja clan and resurrected as a brainwashed assassin. Many times comic fans have wondered what would happen if Wolverine ever lost control of his “beserker rage”, and Millar and artist John Romita Jr. give us the answer: a lot of people will end up dead.  While the follow up, “Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” isn’t as good as the opener, the What If special based on this storyline that Marvel released a few years ago is PHENOMAL, and needs to be hunted down after you read the original story.

Marvel Knights Spider-man

Back in 2004, Millar launched a new Spider-man series under the “Marvel Knights” banner. Taking Spidey in a more “adult” direction, Millar had the web-slinger go up against many of his classic enemies, all the while trying to decipher the villain who has not only discovered his secret identity, but has also kidnapped Aunt May. Terry Dodson’s artwork is AMAZING (pardon the pun), and the arc also features many cool updates for some of Spidey’s classic rogues. If only Sony Pictures could’ve read this before they pulled the plug on Spider-man 4 for a reboot. But then they would’ve had to replace Kirsten Dunst with someone attractive.

Wolverine: Old Man Logan
Old Man Logan was one of the biggest events in comics in the past few years, and ranks as one of the definitive Wolverine stories. Set in an alternate future where the superheroes have all been wiped out due to a collective assault by their enemies, Logan is one of the last heroes left. Living on a farm in California with his wife and children, the now nearly 200 hundred year old Logan is a pacifist who hasn’t “popped” his claws in 50 years.  However, when he needs money to pay his landlords (who are the Hulk’s inbred grand kids!!!), he accepts a job from the now blind Hawkeye to deliver a secret package across the country. Over the course of the storyline we learn what happened the night the heroes were killed, and more importantly, what happened to Wolverine (which was jaw-dropping, to be completely honest). There are so many cool little things peppered throughout the story for Marvel fans, from the breakdown of the super villain territories of the United States, to the numerous “trophies” belonging to “President Red Skull”, that you’re bound to be entertained by this story, regardless of how big a Wolverine fan you are. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have had X-Men Origins: Wolverine last May, we would’ve had this, starring a pre-crazy Mel Gibson as the one and only Old Man Logan.