Monthly Archives: June 2012

Comic Reviews: Hit-Girl and Before Watchmen: Nite Owl!

COMIC REVIEWS!!!

 

Hit-Girl #1 (0f 6)

Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s pint-sized assassin is back in her own mini-series! Hit Girl focuses on the time period between the first two volumes of Kick-Ass (something I wish I didn’t have to look up after reading it), and is a much better introductory issue than last year’s first chapter of Kick-Ass 2.

The bitchy popular girls in school are constantly torturing Mindy McCready, now trying to adjust to life as an ordinary middle-schooler. For a girl who’s grown up learning how to slice throats instead of find common denominators, this proves an interesting challenge for Hit Girl: how does she deal with a situation where she can’t kill her way out of it?  Easy: get Kick-Ass, and offer him super-hero training in exchange for “surviving middle school” training.

It’s this conundrum that motivates this issue, and it’s an interesting hook for Mark Millar to focus on. It’s clear that Millar loves this character, and has a blast writing her. There’s plenty of great moments in this issue, but perhaps my favorite is the somber scene with Mindy at her father’ grave. It’s here that she admits that she can’t deal with her peers at school, and is one of Millar’s best-written scenes. Stripping away the knives, guns, and mask, it shows Mindy McCready in a very relatable light: a little girl who just can’t fit in.

John Romita provides the breakdowns for this issue, with Tom Palmer finishing up the art.  The book has the same ink washed and water color effect that Kick Ass 2 had, and I can honestly say I don’t think it works best with Romita’s style. Regardless, his work here is better than any of his recent Marvel stuff, even if it’s still not up to par of the original Kick Ass.

Hit-Girl is (so far) a great addition to the Kick Ass universe that Millar and Romita, Jr. are building, and actually feels more like a direct sequel than last year’s Kick Ass 2 was.  I’m not entirely sold on the idea that Hit Girl was intended to take place in between the two volumes of Kick Ass, but I’m glad the book is as good as it is. This is definitely a title I’ll be keeping my eyes on.

 

 

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #1 (of 4)https://i1.wp.com/robot6.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/WATCHMEN_2012_NITE_Cvr.jpg

Ah, Nite Owl. Arguably the most underrated of the Watchmen characters, Dan Dreiberg never really gets the chance to shine in Alan Moore’s classic. Sure, he ends up with Silke Spectre in the end, but for much of the book he’s kind of a sad sack, until he gets back into the super hero game by the end of the story. A large chunk of his back-story is explained in his Before Watchmen title, but I feel like a lot of the important parts are glossed over, making this almost a Spark Notes version of Nite Owl’s origin.

This wouldn’t be a problem if we ended the issue on a good cliffhanger, but we don’t’. Instead, we’re lead up the doomed first meeting of “The Crimebusters”, and we get Nite Owl’s perception on the events.  Seeing Dan Dreiberg meet Hollis Mason for the first time is a very excellent scene, but the things that interested me was his training. I guess J. Michael Straczynski doesn’t share my thoughts, as this is glossed over in the issue. Same with Nite Owl’s first encounter (and subsequent adventures) with Rorschach, which is shown to us in a big splash page. At least that art by Andy and Joe Kubert makes up for some of these shortcomings. The Before Watchmen titles have been strong up until now; hopefully the following issue of Nite Owl’s adventures turns this ship around.

Sword Of Vengeance

In comics, there are always characters that get forgotten too soon. We’ve all seen them, characters that make a big splash at first, or even get their own series for a while, only to then be forgotten and abandoned. For every Hellboy, Damien Wayne, or Invincible, there are 5 Simon Darks, Astounding Wolf-mans, or Spider-girls. Hell, even Batgirl has had 3 variations in the past five years!

In this day and age, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for creators and companies to create new properties with lasting appeal. It seems like just yesterday I was gushing over The Umbrella Academy, anxiously awaiting each new issue. But where is my Gerard Way penned series now? While I completely understand the difficulties of writing a comic series on top of a grueling touring schedule, at the same time, it strikes me as odd that there was never any attempt to kept the series going, especially since it was hit critically and commercially.

But I digress; this is more about heroes than series. The comic book landscape is littered with the corpses of “B-list” heroes. However, there seems to be a strange resurgence coming around the bend. Marvel’s restarted a Scarlet Spider book, and while it’s not Ben Reilly under the mask, I’ve heard nothing but positive things about it. Hopefully this kick starts a trend to bring back some other semi-popular heroes and villains into the fold, and there’s one I would love to see make a comeback:

Azrael.

Now I’m talking the original, St. Dumas hallucinating, unhinged vigilante known as Jean-Paul Valley, not the lame Michael Lane that we saw back when “Battle For The Cowl” was underway. Sure, JPV was killed at the end of his series, and was last seen as a zombie in Blackest Night, but with the DC New 52, a little thing like death is nothing. The DC relaunch would be a fantastic way to re-introduce Valley, and since “Knightfall” still counts, you could have Bruce Wayne still not completely trust him. The post-“Knightfall” dynamic between those two was phenomenal, and there’s a lot of potential in their relationship, even if Jason Todd is currently filling the “prodigal son” role of the Bat-family.

With every tease of a new batch of DC books, I constantly wait for one character to come back. While this most recent announcement didn’t include the Agent Of The Bat, there has to be another reason for DC to commission new editions of the Knightfall trades (other than the fact that Bane is the villain in The Dark Knight Rises). Mark my words, we will start seeing some new Azrael collections in a few years, which will hopefully lead to DC giving me what I want: Azrael swinging his fire sword, kicking ass and taking names again. I’ll even write it. For free!

 

I know it’s totally 90s’, but I love AzBats. Too much.

Comic Reviews: Avengers vs. X-Men and The Comedian!

COMIC REVIEWS!!!!

Avengers vs. X-Men #6 (of 12)

Now this is what I’m talking about! We’re just now entering “Act Two” of Avengers vs. X-Men, Marvel’s latest big summer event, and I can honestly say that this is the best issue of the series so far. All of the gripes I’ve had about the pacing and feeling like I’ve missed important events mid panel are gone here, as writer Jonathan Hickman weaves a surprisingly complex tale. With five of the X-Men being given access to the Phoenix Force and using them to solve every major problem that the world has, The Avengers are placed in a very compromising position. They know that the Phoenix will probably overtake the five X-Men and cause massive destruction, but how can they convince everyone else?

Easy, they don’t.

Conspiring against everyone, the Avengers lead an all out attack on the new Utopia, created by the cosmically powered X-Men. If they can retrieve the mutant Hope, the Avengers believe that they’ll be able to use her to figure out how to stop the Phoenix from eventually destroying everything.  Of course this doesn’t go to plan at all, but it does lead to a great confrontation between the Avengers and the Phoenix-powered X-Men, including a jaw dropping moment between Thor and the awesome looking Phoenix-Cyclops.

The art duties for this issue (and the following four) are handled by Olivier Copiel, who knocks it out of the park with this issue. From the opening pages depicting Charles Xavier’s arrival on the new Utopia, to the fight at the end of the issue, there’s not a wasted panel here. More so than Romita, Jr, Copiel’s art is perfect for this type of event book, and I can’t wait to see what else he’s got planned.

From the opening issue, to the awesome U.N. scene, to the final pages, issue six of Avengers vs. X-Men is extremely exciting, and I’m finally looking forward to the next issue, something I haven’t been able to say a lot while following this title. Let’s hope this momentum keeps up.

 

Before Watchmen: Comedian #1 (of 6)

Before Watchmen keeps chugging along, haters be damned. This week sees the first issue of the Comedian spin-off, and it paints a cool tale featuring a mix of historical fact and historical fiction that is a staple of Watchmen. Focusing on the days just before JFK’s assassination, this opening issue starts with Eddie Blake (aka The Comedian) playing a game of football with the Kennedy’s. We then cut to a quite scene with Blake and Jacklyn Kennedy, who gives him a “job” to deal with a certain famous flame of JFK’s. A job that Blake takes on due to his respect for the family. Later on, Blake is given an assignment to break up a narcotics ring run by Moloch The Mystic. After dispensing of the Moloch’s goons, the two enemies notice the news break on Moloch’s TV: JFK is dead.

Writer Brian Azzerello deftly weaves the Watchmen universe into the real-world. The scenes where Blake is talking football with JFK are jarring at first, but really drive home the friendship that Blake feels towards this family, something that he doesn’t have a whole lot of in his life. The art by J.G. Jones is great. His takes on such well-known people as JFK and others is recognizable, but also his own as well. The sequence in which Comedian takes out Moloch’s men single handedly is expertly done, and a prime reason why Jones is one of the best in the business.

Like Minutemen and Silk Spectre before it, The Comedian is a rock-solid book that compliments the original source material beautifully. Of course, like with the others, time will tell if these minis will be remembered as fondly as Watchmen, but as it stands, we’ve got some pretty damn good comics out of this event so far, with some awesome creators.

Venom: Lethal Box Office Protector?

With the success of The Avengers, it should come as no surprise that many studios are eager to attempt their own stab at a shared movie universe.  Warner Bros. is moving full steam ahead with a Justice League film, and according to bleedingcool.com, Sony is looking to get into the game with their licensed properties. Namely, they want to make a solo Venom movie.

Let me say that again. They want to make a solo VENOM MOVIE.

Now, I’m all for Eddie Brock getting a second go round on the silver screen after the rushed job that was Spider-man 3, but he needs to have his time as a villain before this. Now, this may be the case for his solo movie, and while no one has seen The Amazing Spider-man yet to say if Venom or the symbiote are even mentioned in the film, I have to say, I’d rather see Eddie Brock in a Spider-man film first, harassing the wall-crawler.

One of the key things that makes Venom such a great villain is that he has a very personal relationship to Spider-man. Much like Green Goblin, the battles he has with Peter Parker are many times more than just Venom vs. Spider-man, they’re Peter vs. Eddie Brock.  Brock blames Peter Parker for EVERTYHING that has caused his life to go wrong. It’s the one thing he can’t let go of. And while the 90’s mandate of making him into a “lethal protector of the innocent” was an interesting one, there aren’t too many memorable stories from that era. Venom (at least the Eddie Brock version) works best as a villain, plain and simple.  He’s a personal threat to Spider-man because he’s one of the few enemies with an awareness of Parker’s identity, and I have a hard time believing that a solo Venom movie will be able to explain Brock not only getting the suit, but also having his life “ruined” by Spider-man.

Speaking of Eddie Brock gaining the symbiote, how will this spin-off film explain Venom’s powers? In all of his appearances, it’s explained that the symbiote copied Peter Parker’s power set, allowing the next host to have the same powers. So, how will this new Eddie Brock be able to climb walls? I suppose the writers could get around this by having the symbiote be based off of Peter Parker’s DNA, but at the same time, I’m a huge fan of Spidey’s black costume, and after the “symbiote look” of Spider-man 3, I think that deserves another go round too.

Regardless of my reservations of a Venom spin-off film, I will admit to being intrigued by the idea. Will he fight Carnage? Will it be a version of the “Separation Anxiety”?  And most importantly, will it be like other superhero spin-offs Elektra and Catwoman (BAD)?  Venom is a great character, and one of the best villains Marvel has. He’s already been tarnished once. Let’s try and learn from our mistakes and not rush something.

Comic Reviews: Spider-men and Silk Spectre!

COMIC REVIEWS!!!

https://i2.wp.com/www.blogcdn.com/www.comicsalliance.com/media/2012/04/cheungcover.jpgSpider-men #1 (of 5)

Marvel makes history this month with the arrival of Spider-men, which sees the Spider-man of the “616” universe (Peter Parker) meet the new Spider-man of the “Ultimate” universe (Miles Morales).  Written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Sarah Pichelli, (who also lead the Ultimate Spider-man series) the debut issue wastes no time getting right into the action, and definitely leaves you wanting more.

The main focus is on Parker. While swinging by on his usual patrol, stopping the odd carjacking and being hassled by NYC’s finest, he sees a strange portal open in the New York skyline. Naturally he goes to investigate, and finds Mysterio, who is clearly not acting like his usual super-villain self. After a quick skirmish, Spidey is accidentally sent through the portal.  Along his investigation, he stops a mugging, and quickly learns that in this universe, people know that Spider-man is Peter Parker.  Soon after, he comes face to face with Miles Morales, the Spider-man of the Ultimate universe, and end issue one!

While it may not seem like a lot happens in this issue, it moves at a good pace and is extremely enjoyable. Bendis doesn’t typically write Peter Parker’s main series outside of the Avengers titles, but he does a great job with this issue. Spidey’s banter is spot on, and the use of Mysterio is intriguing, as it drops hints of the identity of the Ultimate Mysterio as well (and makes one wonder how long ago this event was thought out).  Pichelli’s art, as always, is fantastic, and she’s quickly proving that she’s becoming one of the best artists in comics today.

The sheer amount of storytelling possibilities that Spider-men presents is astounding, and while this issue doesn’t touch on any of them, it does create a good introduction to the scenario our hero finds himself in. While it does have many of the trappings that a “alternate reality” story would, the fact that this has been so long in the waiting makes it all okay. Spider-men is, without a doubt, a comic that Spidey fans should not miss.

 

Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #1 (of 4) https://i1.wp.com/www.comicsbeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/before_watchmen_silk_spectre.jpg

Darwyn Cooke returns yet again this week, but this time as only a writer. Silk Spectre, the latest Before Watchmen title, is a great examination between Laurie Jupiter and her mother Sally, who has been controlling every aspect of her life so she can follow in her mom’s footsteps to become the next Silk Spectre. This extremely odd relationship is what makes the book so great, but in all seriousness, it’s Amanda Connor’s artwork that is the selling point of this book. Connor is one of my favorite artists, and is a perfect fit for this title. The panels that depict Laurie’s inner thoughts, from her mom picking her up from school to first seeing Gregg, the hunky high school jock, are stunning, and more than make this a worthy addition to your pull list.  Alan Moore be damned, but the first two Before Watchmen titles have been extremely solid, and I  certainly hope that this level of quality keeps up.

TV Review: “Game Of Thrones” Season Two!

 

As summer comes around, so goes the end of Game Of Thrones. The second season of the adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s sprawling medieval fantasy certainly upped the stakes, as well as the amount of characters taking up space on the show. Amazingly though, where many shows would crumble under the weight of so many characters and plotlines, somehow, someway the creative minds behind the series crafted a better season than the last.

Deftly juggling nearly a dozen characters, the second season of the show primarily focuses on the fallout from the death of Robert Baratheon, the king of the Seven Realms of Westeros. With his mad son Joffrey in charge, there are a multitude of people who believe that not only is Joffrey not a true heir to the throne, but that they have a right in it as well. Robert’s brothers Stannis and Renly feud among one another over who should get it, Robb, the son of Ned Stark (our protagonist from last season) believes he should overtake it, and then there’s Daeneryes, who is slowly trying to build an army an ocean away. Aside from all of this, there’s also Jon Snow, Stark’s son with another woman, who as part of the Night’s Watch, is in charge with protecting the realm from the creatures beyond the wall. Add to this bursting cast the Greyjoy family, who is hungry for the Stark controlled land of Winterfell, and you have quite the season.

With so many characters, it’s easy to think that they would all be lost in the shuffle. But if there’s one standout in the cast, it’s easily Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf Hand Of The King for King Joffrey. Just like last season, Dinklage steals every scene he’s in, as his character runs circles around all others: scheming, plotting, and even protecting his family (in his own way as well). His speech in the episode detailing the “Battle Of Blackwater” is one of the best moments of the season.

However, there were some causalities to the amount of the characters this season. IF anyone got the short shrift, it was probably Daenerys, who many times didn’t appear in any episodes at all. I suppose her struggle to build up an army probably isn’t as exciting as the Stannis Baratheon’s plot to overtake King’s Landing, but for such a strong character, I really think she deserved a few more minutes of the screen time.

Regardless, this season of Game Of Thrones was still better than a lot of TV that’s out there currently, and I’m still awaiting season three with bated breath. My hope is that next season we’ll be given more than ten episodes, because while I haven’t read the rest of the book series yet, I get the feeling that the show runners are going to need a lot more time to keep these adaptations up to par.

VERDICT: 3 ½ Hound-killed soldier pieces out of 4

Comic Reviews: Before Watchmen: Minutemen and Earth 2!

COMIC REVIEWS!!!

 https://i0.wp.com/dyn2.media.forbiddenplanet.com/products/2595436_1.jpeg.size-300_maxheight-300_square-true.jpgBefore Watchmen: Minutemen #1 (of 6)

A day that comic fans have long awaited (or dreaded) is finally here: the release of the first of DC’s Before Watchmen titles.  Written and drawn by the great Darwyn Cook, Minutemen tells the story of the original Nite Owl and his adventures with the Minutemen, the team of heroes that predates the characters of Dr. Manhattan, Rorschach, and others in the Alan Moore’s Watchmen.

Framing the narrative around Hollis Mason’s book Under The Hood, this first issue of a planned six issue miniseries serves as a reintroduction of the main characters from the Minutemen team.  While Watchmen readers are familiar with snippets from the original Nite Owl’s tell-all,  Cooke effortlessly fills in the gaps on some of these characters that we though we already knew, and does an admirable job of adding to the already fleshed out Watchmen universe.  Seeing  Hooded Justice and other characters through Mason’s eyes really adds to the notion that these “superheroes” all have some sort of damage to their persons, something that Mason even admits to himself when we are shown one of his first nights. He admits that there’s no reason for him to put on a mask and punch criminals in the jaw, he’s already a cop. But, he gets a kick out of putting himself directly in harm’s way.

Cooke’s writing is the cake of this issue, but his artwork is the icing. While he’s never been a slouch in the art department (in fact, he’s one of my favorite artists), Cook really outdoes himself here.  Everything about the art is perfect here. From the quiet moments of Hollis Mason trying to finish his book, to the dark and moody appearance from The Comedian. That scene in question is one of the highlights of the book, as it presents in two pages everything that is fascinating about the character, and what makes him tick. There’s also  a great nod to some classic Watchmen imagery at the beginning of the issue, as well as some nods to where these heroes end up in the original story.

There’s a lot of talk on the interwebs regarding Before Watchmen still, and I hate to say it haters, but Before Watchmen: Minutemen is a great comic. While it (and it’s fellow titles) probably won’t usurp Watchmen anytime soon, it’s still a great comic, and as I said months ago, the best possible creator has been tapped for this book, and if this is any indication of what we’re going to be getting this summer, then we’re all in for a treat.

Earth 2 #2https://i1.wp.com/www.jaydotdee.com/poptardsgo/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/EARTH2_Cv2-662x1024.jpg

 Ah, Earth 2 issue two. Or, as it will forever be known as: “The Gay Green Lantern issue”. Yes, the second issue of James Robinson and Nicola Scott’s alternate DC universe does feature Alan Scott kissing –SHOCK!- a man, but it also continues the story hints that were dropped in the previous issue. Opening on Jay Garrick, the older Flash in our world, meeting the Greek god Mercury was very cool, and the moments where he is bestowed the god’s power and becomes the Flash were a lot of fun. As for GGL, he’s not Green Lantern yet,  and his story doesn’t really go anywhere other than the fact that he has a boyfriend now instead of a girlfriend like his old, pre-relaunch counterpart. Those expecting some sort of crazy “he’s gay” reveal will be disappointed, as it’s handled really well, and not to be preachy, but should it really be that big of a deal what a character’s sexual orientation is anymore?

After The “Rise”

This past weekend, a customer came in with speculation of the pre-Nolan “Batman” films. While I can’t vouch for the validity of his reports, it did bring up an interesting tidbit that I started to ponder to myself: who should play Batman once The Dark Knight Rises hits blu-ray shelves and Warner Bros. decides they want more money? The customer in question mentioned the one name that makes me stop dead in my tracks: Michael Fassbender.

Just think of how awesome FassBat would be.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Fassbender, he’s probably most well known for playing Erik Lensherr in X-Men: First Class and doing an excellent job at it. While he may not be ready to tackle yet another superhero franchise, I personally think he would be an excellent successor to Christian Bale, who in my opinion has been the best Batman to grace the screen so far (with the exception of voice actor Kevin Conroy of course). Other strong contenders could be  Armie Hammer(who actually was signed on to play Batman in the abandoned Justice League film), Kit Harrington (Jon Snow from Game Of Thrones), or Jon Hamm (if we’re going for an older Batman).

 

 
Thinking about Fassbender as Batman got me thinking even more on the topic of a pre-Nolan Batman movie world. I think the safest bet would be to just adapt the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City videogames into films. They feature all of the Batman villains that you want to see, and are the best mid-way point between Batman: The Animated Series and the grounded Christopher Nolan films. There are many great Batman characters that can’t be featured in Nolan’s films because of the “realistic” setting, whereas in a film similar to the Arkham games one could have Mr. Freeze, Man-Bat, or Clayface running around with little explanation for why they exist.

 

Make this a movie, and get Paul Dini to write it!

 

 

But it’s not just the villains that could be given the silver screen treatment. With the end of the Nolan films also comes an end to the “no Robin” rule. Batman’s allies in the war on crime are fascinating and could each carry a movie of their own. If Warner Bros. was smart, they could have a Batman film that showed glimpses of Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl, and even Azrael (hey, I can dream) and then spin them off into their own franchises. Think of it as a reversal of what Marvel Studios did with Avengers. Everyone and their mother knows the origin of Batman by now, there’s no need to explain yet again in a reboot film. Just hit the ground running with a slightly older Batman and drop hints and clues into his history with the other members of the Bat-family. Hell, there are dozens of Batman storylines that could be turned into stunning movies, like “The Killing Joke”, “Arkham Asylum”, or “No Man’s Land”.

 

 
Batman is one of the most well known superheroes of all time. It’s stupid to think that Warner Bros. won’t reboot him and presumably go for a more family-friendly angle this time. While the Nolan films have made them butt loads of cash, they’re not exactly movies that everyone in the family can enjoy. Hopefully Warner’s will learn from their pre-Nolan mistakes and not make us suffer through another Batman and Robin travesty, but if they do, at least we have the Nolan movies to re-watch.

6/20/97. NEVER FORGET.