Thursday, May 25, 2017

"The Atlantic," Summed Up Marvel's Problems Perfectly

For the record, I basically agree with everything in the new article from The Atlantic titled, "The Real Reason for Marvel Comics' Woes." It summarizes much of what I and others have discussed extensively. Namely, that Marvel seems to keep alienating readers with tone-deaf statements, constant re-launches that bring with them horrible difficulty in regards to keeping track of books, overpriced event-comics, and as Comicsbeat points out in its own thoughts on the piece, Marvel has horrible communication with libraries--a potentially quite significant source of income for many publishers.

This all isn't really surprising. When you essentially dismiss the importance of minority and LGBTQ characters in your comics, pile-on expensive and dull cross-overs, keep re-launching your books until it is impossible to figure out the chronology, and otherwise act disinterested in what your consumer wants, can you really be startled when things aren't going well? Plus, the point about libraries in the additional article is especially intriguing. I mean, if someone wants to buy 200 copies of one of your popular books to stock their shelves with wouldn't you normally fall over yourself to get that guaranteed sale? Marvel's borderline-animosity toward libraries is just quizzical, perhaps because they feel people grabbing the book at the library won't buy copy, but there are so many factors within that to consider (would this person actually buy the book without the library, could they afford the book, etc.) that I personally feel selling a ton of copies of your book to a library system and taking a nice profit off of that is worth more than pondering, "Well, maybe we will sell as many or a bit more books if we don't do this deal."

Anyways, Marvel is having a lot of trouble in regards to their comics (the movies are still doing gangbusters, of course) and I just felt the piece by The Atlantic laid it out expertly.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tales From the Dollar Bin: Worldwatch #1

There are comics which are worth incredible sums of money, but so many of the most interesting, tragic, or just downright weird can be found for a simple dollar or less in a store's "dollar bin". There, comics that never gained much popularity can be found alongside those that sold so much as for a copy to be worthless. "Tales From the Dollar Bin" aims to explore these comics, be they a single issue or an entire run of a series. From the great to the miserable, some of the best treasures and worst nightmares can be found in those infamous boxes. Let's have a "tale" now...

Chuck Austen? Hoo Boy...
I haven't done a, "Tale from the Dollar Bin," in some time, so I was thinking if I were going to present one it had to be something especially noteworthy in its dollar-ness. I've talked about books that were so popular they are now worthless, but what about a comic so unpopular that some folk wouldn't even take it for free? What kind of comic would that be though? Perhaps a book with a writer so unpopular that it got to a point where even seeing his name on a cover made people want to stay far away? A writer who started out pretty well but burned out so astonishingly horrifically that the way his career ended would look worse than a 10-car pile-up on the freeway where every vehicle was a packed clown-car? I mean, who could possibly be that reviled that people...oh wait, yeah, Chuck Austen.

I've actually written about a comic from Chuck Austen before as a Dollar Bin yarn that was a God-awful sequel to an actually decent other series he did. Austen is someone who showed some skill and talent, but basically blew any goodwill he had built-up during a run on ,"X-Men," that could at best be described as, "An utter catastrophe," if we are being polite--if we're just being honest, "Goddamn fucking mess," works better. Austen came onto the X-Men book after Grant Morrison's incredible run (and wrote some, "Uncanny X-Men stuff," too that sucked), which is a change in quality equivalent to going to the house of someone who for months was giving you incredible and passionate love-making(X-Men under Morrison) and then suddenly one day you show-up at their house and they just start punching you repeatedly in the face while screaming, "This is what you like, right? X-Men stories where Nightcrawler is somehow revealed to be a demon-spawn, two X-men have sex in the sky in front of another character's mother, and other stories get shit-on repeatedly? Right? Tell me if you like this!"
Remember that time Austen tried to ruin Nightcrawler?
Clearly I have strong opinions on Chuck Austen's less-than-good work, and I'm actually someone who goes much easier on the guy and feels some of his stuff was good! Other people just like to label him as, "The Absolute Worst," and go on with their day, but the truth is far more complicated, because it always is. Austen is sometimes the absolute worst (his time on, "X-Men,"), but there are occasions he actually shows promise, talent, and otherwise is actually kinda good. His attempt at making-fun of super-heroes and the super-hero industry, "Worldwatch," is...sigh, well, it is not one of those times.

Satire is Hard
Everyone is so terrible.
Being satirical is a skill that is difficult to master. If you are trying to make fun of something by making a parody-version of it you walk a fine-line between being too obvious in your mockery or being so deadpan you just are another copy of the very thing you were trying to take the piss out of. "Worldwatch," was a comic with the kinda-clever idea that it was a graphic-novel adaptation of a super-heroine's tell-all book about her time on the team, "Worldwatch," a U.N sanctioned team of heroes presented to the public as great good guys, but who were actually terrible people--shocking, I know (yes, I'm being sarcastic)!

Austen essentially wanted to make a comic that poked at stuff like, "Stormwatch," or, "The Authority," who were themselves darker and edgy analogues of other comic-heroes. Austen did this by giving us a comic that is basically characters like, "The Authority," behaving terribly like folk in, "The Boys," with an attempt to do the political satire of, "The Ultimates," but failing miserably at it. This shit is a mess, in other words.
The closest the comic comes to making a statement, with boobs included.
All the heroes in, "Worldwatch," are terrible people with it clear an attempt is being made to write them as, "Edgy," but again, Satire is hard. We have a sexist and super-religious male, an Amazonian-type lady who is a real hard-ass, a young and naive speedster-lady, an older male hero whose ex-wife is on the team and basically just slightly different-versions of heroes that already exist, and everyone is a huge jerk. For real, everyone in this comic yells at each other, hits on one another in vain, or has sex with one another because, um, just because, I guess. All the female characters in the book seem to be in a constant state of undress, which is fine to me as someone who appreciates the naked female form as much as anyone else, but the comic's attempt to act like it is making some capital-S, "Statement!" about the sexualization of women in comics is just stupid. Oh, and we throw in a bit about racism that seems to go nowhere besides, "I'm a white lady and my parents hated black men, but you are a sexy black man so I want to have sex with you," as well as a shocking reveal that one of the heroes is hanging out with an enemy!

Austen clearly wanted to make some deep statement about how our fictional heroes we look up to would in fact be terrible people in reality, that heroes are a fascistic power-fantasy, how women in comics are treated as little more than sexual objects, and basically wanted to thumb his nose at the industry and fans that mistreated him (in his mind) so poorly. The thing is, he just made a really bad comic that is the epitome of everything he might be trying to mock. Austen perhaps wanted to show us how in his mind super-heroes were an adolescent power-fantasy...but he just made a comic that reads as if it was written by a violence and sex-obsessed 13-year-old who believes throwing a bunch of, "Fucks," into dialogue is mature. As I keep saying, satire is hard.

A Truncated Treatise
I'm attracted to you, so I can't be racist, right?
I only read the first issue of, "Worldwatch," and it apparently was supposed to be a seven-issue mini-series. It only went for three before ending prematurely due to lack of sales/sheer disinterest, with the publisher, "Wild and Wooly Press," never making anything else as far as I know. This is a treatise that ended-up quite truncated considering it didn't even reach a half-way point in regards to Austen telling his story. Other people out there recognize what Austen was attempting to do with, "Worldwatch," and also observe he kinda struggled to make it clear he was making fun of these sorts of comics, not just trafficking in them. They don't usually give awards for, "Trying really hard," however, so regardless of what Austen intended, we're left with this schlock.

One thing that is especially tragic here is that the pencils by Tom Derenick and inks by Norm Rapmund are quite good, this is some solid art! The problem is, this good art is accompanied by some God-awful writing. Chuck Austen was trying to say something deep and clever about the comic industry and its fans who he felt had treated him so poorly, but only ended-up basically continuing to prove his critics right. It's sad, but we unfortunately don't get too many happy stories when we share a...tale from the dollar bin!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Birthday-Week Links!

Take a Deep Breath...
It's my birthday this week (at the end on Saturday the 27th) so how about we celebrate with some random links that I found interesting?

...And Blow (The Candles, You Perverts)
The movie studio A24 sounds like a cool place full of neat folk, and this article discussing its wild and twisty history makes a great read

That Nine-Panel Design, tho. Seriously though, it is a fascinating format that impacted, "Watchmen," greatly and imagine will see usage in, "Doomsday Clock." Plus, Tom King and his collaborators always use it well, such as with, "Omega Men," and it should be snazzy when utilized in his upcoming Mister Miracle-focused maxi-series.

As I said in a previous post, Shepard Smith is probably the one and only person I trust at Fox News to report facts. He also seems like just a genuinely nice and honest guy, as articles like this, where he discusses being openly gay at an outlet like Fox News, illustrate.

I am someone who has had a baby recently (our little Clarkson), therefore this article about how to balance things like playing video-games with your newborn really speaks to me. Some tips are obvious, but it makes some solid points. Heck, you could replace, "Playing video-games," with nearly any hobby and much of the advice still would be solid.

Depending on whom you ask, the Ultimate Universe that once existed at Marvel either has just a few remaining elements, or arguably still exists and could theoretically be brought-back at any time. Okay?

It has many ups and downs but I am as much of a fan of Saturday Night Live as I am fascinated by it in general. Reading about how it has handled the political shit-show that is the the Trump Presidency is illuminating.
I read The Guardian on the internet sometimes (the above story about video-games and babies is by them actually) and they have pointed-out on their site at times how they don't put their articles behind an annoying paywall. After mentioning this I've observed the site in a polite manner asking if readers such as myself would contribute to assist them in continuing this practice. I find their laid-back and friendly way of asking refreshing and therefore have given funds and encourage you to do so as well at this link.

Reading these thoughts discussing how the messaging Marvel has done about ,"Secret Empire," at this point almost matters more than the comic itself says basically what I've been thinking.

This safe-for-work article about the most infamous pool in Japan made me laugh. Why is it infamous, you may ask? Well, it is often used as a set in a ton of Japanese pornography!
Is Nick Spencer actually kind of a dick?
I've enjoyed some of his comics but lately Nick Spencer is seeming kind of like a jerk, and apparently his past behavior before he got into comics kind-of solidifies my theory that maybe despite making some great books (and terrible ones like the earlier-discussed, "Secret Empire," series) Nick Spencer might actually be a bit of an asshole using offensive imagery in a tone-deaf manner.

Valve and their Steam service gets a lot of love from many people, but I admire this opinion piece  by Tim Colwill calling them out as acting really evil and mercenary in a variety of ways despite being thought of as, "Good Guy Valve," and a beloved company as opposed to, "Evil corporations," such as EA that have done many of the same  questionable things that Valve actually does.

Lastly, with all the extra-attention, "Watchmen," is getting with its further incorporation into the DC Universe how about we enjoy a short essay on the importance of Doctor Manhattan's penis (no, seriously). This simple organ arguably carries with it a lot of symbolism and meaning within, "Watchmen," believe it or not.

Now Cake!
Love those fails!
It is now time for me to get ready to eat cake later this week, kick-back, and otherwise celebrate!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

"Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers" Review

One of my friends bought a graphic novel at PAX this year that they really enjoyed. They reached-out to me as they know I do the blog and told me about it. That book is, "Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers," from the publisher Native Realities Press. Native Realities is made up of creators who aim to further the awareness and celebration of Native Americans and Native American culture. I feel this is an important mission as often in America it seems we only hear about Native Americans in history when it's Thanksgiving and get the cliche story about how the, "Friendly Indians helped the kind Pilgrims and they were all friends!" with the genocide and destruction that followed carefully left-out of textbooks. Native Realities' book, "Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers," is an anthology featuring historical fiction tales of Code Talkers throughout a variety of wars, and it sounded cool to me so I reached-out and was able to acquire a digital copy for the purposes of review.

I will admit my knowledge of code talkers was minimal. I knew that during World War II the United States dealt with the Axis powers cracking their codes by having a variety of Native American soldiers communicate over radio in their native language with even more code-words used to ensure secrecy (code-within-a-code). I also know there was a mediocre war-movie made that discussed code talkers, but that was about it. Hence, this book, which is geared more towards younger-readers (it has suggested further-education activities and resources too, which is cool), actually was perfect for an adult like myself who knows so little. Through reading this book and its assorted stories of code talkers I learned that Native Americans actually were engaging in this practice as long ago as World War I and were actively used past World War II but as technology advanced found themselves relied upon less and less until they were discharged and sworn to secrecy about their important contributions.

A straight-up illustrated history might bore some readers (I would like it, but not everyone would) so to the credit of the various creators who contributed to this anthology, the historical fiction we witness is often exciting and full of well-illustrated fighting and intensity. One question I myself had going into this book is brought-up for readers as well: Why? When I say, "Why?" I am referring to the question of why these Native American soldiers even wanted to fight for a nation that had treated their people with such hatred and disrespect. Seriously, during World War I many of the Native Americans who fought and died for America were not even yet recognized by the U.S. as, "citizens," spilling their blood for a country that wouldn't even let them vote.

The book offers various answers to that question, with it clearly being wrestled with by the soldiers who fought for a nation that refused to respect them (with one story featuring a Black soldier who bonds with a Native American trooper pointing out how there are many demographics that have been on the receiving end of horrific treatment throughout history in America). This isn't to say, "Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers," is some rage-filled manifesto however. There clearly is a love for this nation and a hope for what it could possibly be shared by all the men and women in the stories.

I found, "Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers," to be as informative as it was engaging. It kept my attention throughout all of its stories and provided me with a lot of history that often seems to be accidentally forgotten at best and actively ignored at worst. This book was a superb read for me, an adult slightly embarrassed to admit his ignorance of this fascinating part of history, and for sure would make a stellar read for schoolchildren to enjoy and then further their education with the aforementioned helpful resources and study-tips in the back of the book. Native Realities Press created a great book and I encourage you to purchase your own copy at this link.
5 out of 5 stars. 

Note: A digital copy of, "Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers," was provided for the purposes of review upon my request to the publisher.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mike Wolfer Has Launched a Kickstarter for a Cool New, "Widow," Comic!

Mike Wolfer is a Cool Fellow
I am of course a big fan of Mike Wolfer's writing and artwork, having interviewed him for the blog multiple times and often reading and enjoying his work. He has done Kickstarter campaigns in the past to help fund many of his projects and often has cool unqiue goodies made available through those Kickstarters. He is one of those somewhat-rare dependable people on Kickstarter as he always delivers his promised goods, and keeps his backers well-informed about his progress and any delays in getting goodies sent-out. Hence, anytime I hear he's got a new project that I can support you know I eagerly back it. This brings us to his latest endeavor!

Widow: Return to Spider-Island
Mike Wolfer's upcoming original graphic novel, "Widow: Return to Spider-Island," sounds like it will be superb. It will feature the first new tale with fan-favorite character Emma Harrow in many years as she returns to the island where everything started back in the original Widow comics. It will be a 64-page book of comic-goodness and is described by Wolfer as being both friendly to new readers and rewarding as well for long-time fans of Emma/Widow. Wolfer always excels at writing (and drawing) horror and scary violence, so I have no doubt this will be a great comic and make a stellar addition to my collection of his various awesome works.

I encourage you to check-out and back his Kickstarter for, "Widow: Return to Spider-Island," at this link.

Reviews of Recently Released Albums AKA Bruno Mars, Mary J. Blige, Gorillaz, and Kendrick Lamar!

More Music!
I of course love music (when I'm not hating it, at least) and wanted to offer my thoughts on some recently released albums. Shall we?

"XXIVk [24k] Magic," by Bruno Mars
Alright, this isn't exactly, "Recently released," as it came out in November of last year. That said, various singles off the album still are playing on the radio quite often so I think we're good. I've written about the infectious pop-enthusiasm of Bruno Mars previously and this album is the epitome of that. Whether the title track ("24k Magic"), a bit slower but still easy-to-dance-to tune ("That's What I Like") or a song that sounds designed for pure seduction ("Versace on the Floor"), Mars knows how to give people what they like--and what they like is new music that also sounds as if it could simultaneously be an old Motown or 1980's funk-hit.

Mars has mastered the art of making fresh songs that also sound like old classics, arguably broadening his appeal even more between both young folk and older individuals. "Calling All my Lovelies," sounds like something that could simultaneously have been created on an old synthesizer and carries with it a modern pop-swagger. Plus, because he knows we also like when he croons romantically with a hint of sorrow, album-closer, "Too Good to Say Goodbye," is sure to make ladies and men have their eyes tear-up, because the only thing as popular as happy and energetic Bruno Mars is sad and heartbroken Bruno Mars (I personally prefer the former but enjoy the latter as well).

Between his writing and voice as well as his producers and other contributors Mars knows how to craft deliciously party-ready albums that are sure to encourage folk to get-up and start dancing (or on his forlorn tunes, kick-back and cry a little). There is just something about songs like the first one on the LP and my favorite, "24k Magic," where they burrow into your body and make you want to start grooving. Some of the songs carry a bit less impact than others ("Straight Up & Down," drags horribly) but overall Mars and his chums have given us yet another catchy record to play when we want to put any get-together into overdrive.
4 out of 5 stars.

"Strength of a Woman," by Mary J. Blige
Upon listening to this album I think a better title would have simply been, "I'm Pissed!" For those who are unaware, Mary J. Blige has been in the midst of a rather nasty divorce with a man who (as more and more is revealed) seems to himself be quite the horrific person. Essentially her husband stole money from her to treat his secret-girlfriend whom he was cheating with to lavish vacations and gifts, and now during the divorce proceedings is demanding he receive Alimony of over a hundred thousand dollars a month which he believes he is owed it for all he's done for Mary. I don't know about you, but after you steal from your spouse to cheat with somebody else I don't think you have much of a leg to stand-on in regards to morality.

Mary clearly has not been pleased with everything in life because as she sings on her song, "Set me Free," about a cheating man isn't directly named but clearly her husband, "There's a special place in Hell for you," as well as assuring him he won't be getting a dime. Much of the album is Mary singing about being wronged by someone who claimed to love her, discussing how terrible these kind of cheaters are, and how she'll find herself a new man who actually loves her and treats her right. It's a very emotion-filled album because clearly a lot of raw feelings went into it. All of these, "Feels," would be useless without good singing and music however, which the album thankfully has much of.

Whether listening to, "The Thick of It," with Mary crooning, or the delightful guest appearances on, "Glow Up," from talent such as Missy Elliot, "Strength of a Woman," maintains a steady presence throughout its run-time, keeping listeners engaged and intrigued (at least it did that for me). There is a lot of rage in this LP, but a good deal of hope for the future and love in general too--Mary may have been wronged but she isn't giving-up on love, just being extra-careful from now on. She's been making music for decades and continues to create very enjoyable stuff, so I hope Mary meets the right man and is able to also give us an album full of joy. In the meantime however, this angry one works quite well too.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

"Humanz," by Gorillaz
One of the first CDs I ever bought was the self-titled debut LP of the, "Gorillaz." I loved how it jumped around to various genres and was otherwise a weird little experimental hodge-podge . I feel the sophomore album, "Demon Days," is probably the best album ever put out by, "Them," as it had the perfect mixture of guest-artists and solitary weirdness. I put, "Them," in quotation marks as this band of course isn't a real entity. It is the brainchild of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett along with their various collaborators on different albums.

This is what I consider to be the fourth studio album as, "The Fall," doesn't really count in my mind as a true album so much as little experiment within this experiment. I personally feel that over time each album has moved more and more in the direction of having tons of guests that now basically the Gorillaz albums are more-so an anthology with a unifying theme than an actual imaginary group (and yes, "The Fall," was pretty minimalist but what did  I just say about not counting it?), for better or worse.

This vibe of, "More is always better," results in an album that at times feels both bloated with its 20+ tracks and shockingly short in its 49 total minutes of run-time. There is this sensation that Gorillaz is throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks, which makes it all the more striking and slightly disappointing that while there are a number of misses, some tracks do stick, and their genius is quite apparent. "Momentz," with De La Soul as a featured artist sounds like a sugar-rush mixed with an assortment of club-drugs to create a barrage of pure energy and fast-rapping. "Busted and Blue," is amazing with its quiet and melodic melancholy, and, "Ticker Tape," with Carly Simon of all people making an appearance is a catchy and funky ditty for sure.

There are these flashes of amazing ingenuity, but a lot of it is surrounded by decent songs that struggle to stay in my memory once they finish playing. There were no songs I really hated when listening to, "Humanz," but far too little I absolutely loved considering how the first Gorillaz album and, "Demon Days," still find themselves played in the car for me often. This was a good album, but not as superb as I would have hoped.
3 out of 5 stars.

"DAMN." by Kendrick Lamar
There are three living rappers who may be the best alive, but two of them come with nagging, "If's," attached. They are Kanye West, Andre 3000, and Kendrick Lamar. Kanye West would be one of the best ever if he could stop buying into his own mystique so much that his craft at times suffers. Andre 3000 is just plain amazing when he raps, if he chooses to do so outside of a guest appearance on an album here-and-there.

That leaves us with Kendrick Lamar, the greatest living rapper alive who is actually willing to rap and not absurdly self-absorbed. "DAMN." is more of Kendrick showing off his stellar abilities be it spitting bars absurdly fast over dizzying beats ("DNA," is astounding), vaguely singing and growling amorously at the same time ("LUST), or simply observing how screwed-up our nation is while Bono joins in with U2 ("XXX").

Lamar is so amazing that a rare misfire can really stand-out, such as, "LOVE," which sounds absurdly pop-driven and more like something that would be on a Justin Bieber album with a guest-verse by Kendrick than it does a song fit to stand with his amazing jams, "YAH," or "PRIDE." Still, a song here-or-there that isn't utterly mind-blowing is perfectly alright when your album in general is yet another masterpiece.
5 out of 5 stars.

Turn that Down, You'll Damage Your Hearing!
A variety of albums have come out lately and some impressed me more than others. Still, they all had at least some tracks I greatly enjoyed and other LPs were almost entirely awesomesauce. Music really is a magical thing, ain't it?

Monday, May 15, 2017

I'm Actually Interested in DC's Upcoming, "Doomsday Clock," Event

I absolutely hated the cash-grab ideas behind, "Before Watchmen," and when I first heard about, "Rebirth," and how it might incorporate aspects of, "Watchmen," I felt like DC had gone off the rails. Then, all the talented folk at DC surprised me by having, "Rebirth," be a re-launch that didn't suck. The careful way DC has incorporated concepts of, "Watchmen," has actually shown a lot of restraint and skill, and the newly announced, "Doomsday Clock," comic that will involve Superman coming face-to-face with Doctor Manhattan...sounds kinda neat?

Wait, what's going on with me? Haven't I said in the past, repeatedly, how DC loves to yell, "Fuck Alan Moore!" and insult his past work by diluting, "Watchmen," and his other works? Yes, I have done that, but in my article about how, "Rebirth," surprisingly didn't suck I said the one way that maybe, just maybe, DC could make incorporating, "Watchmen," go well is by getting really meta and focusing on how the creation of, "Watchmen," in the 1980's changed comics forever and impacted super-hero comics to their very core by bringing-in a more, "Adult," and grim-and-gritty focus that for decades books found themselves beholden to. Perhaps if DC made it less about, "Watchmen," as a comic than, "Watchmen," as an idea it could work. Well, it seems DC is actually doing that.

The idea behind, "Doomsday Clock," is to do a reasonable 4-part standalone series without a bunch of extraneous tie-in comics, which already sounds affordable as opposed to being an absurdly massive event-comic. These comics will focus on how the new bright hopefulness existing in the world of DC's Rebirth is going to have to survive against the horrific grit and misery of a world full of characters like, "Watchmen." That sounds pleasantly meta and self-aware in a manner of as if the stories in the DC Universe were a living thing dealing with the fact that for years upon years there has been an invisible influence of, "Watchmen," in comics, except now in a postmodern-twist the characters are aware of it. As I said, it just might be clever enough to work if its written well, which so far it actually has been. Plus, there are lots of real-world ways it almost sorta makes sense to go all-in on, "Watchmen," as of late.

Also, Gary Frank is providing artwork, so even if the writing does end-up being terrible at least the comic will look damn good.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Film Friday: Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Warning: Spoilers Throughout Article
Last weekend I saw, "Guardians of the Galaxy 2," and found it quite enjoyable if at the same time a little low-key. I know that sounds odd to say a movie full of space-battles and otherworldly planets is modest, but despite its theoretically grand-scale of outer-space much of GOTG2 was focused on smaller character-moments and developing the Guardians. At times it almost felt like much of the movie was an exercise in chilling-out and waiting for when the crew pops-up in the Infinity-themed Avengers movies. After all, we only have a few planets explored, and the biggest new plot development is Peter Quill (again played fantastically by Chris Pratt) finally meeting his father, Ego, the Celestial living planet.

Kurt Russel does a stellar job as Ego--Hell, everyone turns in an amazing performance, but the big reveal of how Ego is actually evil seems to come pretty suddenly with its epic-sized battling after a relative amount of quieter moments. There's just a lot of water-treading seeming to be going on during the flick, I would say.
It sounds like I'm being really critical of, GOTG2, but it actually is a great movie and one of the funniest Marvel flicks I have seen along with the original. Even many of the dramatic moments often are undercut with some humor, as if writer and director James Gunn wants to say, "Yeah, this moment of mutiny on Yondu's ship is really sad, but this Taserface guy has a hilariously bad name!" Many times during the movie I and everyone else in the theater cracked-up at the amazing jokes, and there are some tear-jerker moments at the conclusion too (you will be missed, Yondu), much as with the original GOTG film. Plus there is plenty of Baby Groot, so that brings me immense joy.

"Guardians of the Galaxy 2," is not the best Marvel movie ever, but it is still really, really good. I had a great time watching it and without a doubt find its quirky and off-kilter humor makes it a delightfully weird corner of the Marvel Movie Universe. I just hope when it eventually has to meet-up and interact with all the other parts more (e.g. the Avengers) that it still retains a decent amount of its unique charm.
4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Clarkson is Home!

I have wonderful news! After his being born almost 10 weeks premature our son Clarkson ha developed enough to be able to come home. Late Tuesday we brought him to the house and he's been settling in since, alternating between sleeping, eating, pooping, and crying when he wants to engage in the aforementioned eating or pooping (or needs to do some sleeping).
Samii and I are overjoyed to have Clarkson home and I want to thank all of you, my dear readers, for your support and keeping Clarkson in your thoughts over these trying weeks. Now I just need to try and get some sleep when possible (some may notice this post is going up at nearly 1:30AM in my time-zone. The reason for that is Clarkson doesn't always doze-off when we want him too!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Rant-Reviews: Five #1 Issues and an Annual

Debuts and a Special for 2017
I always enjoy discussing first issues of comics as it is fun to wonder what could come next and talk about if the beginning was promising or disappointing (and how that bodes for the future). Annuals can be fun as well considering they generally either set-up a story or are their own individual yarn, giving readers a, "Taste," of sorts for what they could expect from the general comics. Well, I just recently read  five premiere issues of some comics and an Annual, so I thought I would offer my thoughts on them.

What I Read (And Now Will Write About)
Youngblood #1
This was something interesting. We take a series from when Image first came about and which is loaded with history, then acknowledge that history to some degree, but make something mostly fresh with an attempt at having minimal baggage. The result is a comic that rewards folk who read all the old, "Youngblood stuff," but also is pretty friendly to individuals utterly fresh to the franchise. I'm somewhere in-between those two extremes, and found myself pretty pleased with this book. We have a lot of old characters introduced as well as some new heroes, a mystery here-and-there, and two concepts I've seen comics explore meshed-together.

The two ideas are people ordering help from super-heroes via an app and super-hero registration. The clever format here is that heroes don't necessarily have to register via any law, but the, "Help!" app makes it appealing to do so as then they can have folk who need help posting their desires, assuring the heroes are busy as opposed to just aimlessly patrolling (at least that is how the app is ostensibly, "sold," to heroes). It's a great notion that I imagine will be further dug-into in further issues and happily has solid plotting and characterization to go with it. I quite enjoyed this latest re-launch of, "Youngblood," and admire its balancing of old-and-new along with its handling of a variety of concepts. Good stuff.
4 out of 5 stars.

Pestilence #1
The concept we were sold in the solicits is as simple as it is inspiring: Zombies in the Middle Ages. It's a phrase that inspires exciting images of knights fighting the undead, their swords cutting through rotting-flesh, all that good stuff. Unfortunately this issue doesn't really bring the zombies in till right at the end, instead focusing more on introducing our team who works for the Vatican as problem-solvers of sorts and showing them on a standard mission, meting out their brand of religious justice.  It is by no means a bad issue, but I just found myself disappointed there was whole lot less Medieval zombie-bashing than I had expected. Aftershock has put out a number of good books so I imagine issue #2 will be a great time (as the actual undead-squashing hopefully commences) but for now this was pretty dull.
2 out of 5 stars.

Bane: Conquest #1
Chuck Dixon created Bane back in the 1990's and has done a lot of comic-book work for a variety of publishers. For awhile he seemed to not be doing anything for Marvel and DC and would make mention of not being welcome for a variety of reasons (some folk said he was hard to work with, he claimed the fact he leans-right politically causes issues, and so forth). Whatever problems there were keeping Dixon from working for DC seem to have been at least somewhat resolved however, as he is now doing a 12-issue maxi-series in the form of, "Bane: Conquest," a tale focusing on Bane as he works to defend Gotham City (I'm not exactly sure why) and does slightly heroic things in an extremely villainous and murder-filled manner. Dixon has done a ton of great stuff but this read was generally just alright--not amazing, not terrible, but okay.

Despite this being a first issue it isn't exactly friendly to brand-new readers. This clearly is taking place in DC's current continuity but little explanation if offered as to how Bane ended-up living in Gotham City, why he's working to defend it now, etc. We get some flashbacks to Bane's childhood but little context is given for much of the events in the book. The proceedings themselves are interesting to read and competently-written because this is Chuck Dixon and he's got skills. Still, I think my biggest obstacle is how I haven't really been keeping-up with the events of DC since rebirth outside of the trade paperbacks (and, "Deathstroke") so I'm a good six-months-to-a-year behind on lots of what is going on in the comics. This was still perfectly alright though and I think worth reading at least another issue of.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

Hero Killers #1
Dynamite has done of number of comics under the, "Project Superpowers," banner, be it their nostalgia-driven stuff that had a lot of contributions from Alex Ross, or their horror-tinged, "Blackcross," mini-series that Warren Ellis wrote. Now within that theme (and I think again in its own world) we have Ryan Browne giving us the comedic, "Hero Killers." The gist here is that Libertyville U.S.A. was once a crime-ridden Hellhole, so they offered to pay superheroes to come and fight crime, even awarding bonuses for superb crime-prevention and stoppage. Years later there are too many heroes and basically no crime for them to fight. The situation is even more depressing if you're a sidekick, getting zero respect from the public or your supposed mentor.

This, "Too many heroes," idea has occurred before, but it usually is a fun thing to explore and Browne is pretty skilled at comedy within his comics. This book was for sure zany and silly, before taking a bit of a dark-yet-still-kinda-funny turn at the end where we see that the hero-killers in question are going to be (spoiler alert, even though solicits basically gave it away) the disrespected sidekicks. When a comic advertises that its focus is to be funny it essentially lives or dies based on its jokes. Thankfully, a lot of the jokes within, "Hero Killers," land even if some significant duds are in there too (the whole, "Whisper-yelling," gag is just dumb). There is more good stuff than bad in this, so I would say I liked it and am at least moderately curious enough to want to read the next issue.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Predator: Hunters #1
The afterword in this first issue makes the focus of this mini-series clear: Normally in a, "Predator," movie or the comics the plot follows humans who don't know anything about the aliens, and then eventually at the end of the story realize all they need to know in order to prevail. This series flips that on its head. This time we have humans who know everything about the Predators and their whole intention is to hunt the aliens who usually are the hunters. The, "Hunter becomes the hunted," idea is such a cliche, but as far as I know it never actually have been done with the Predators, who are arguably the greatest hunters of all. Therefore, what normally would seem played-out actually is kind of fascinating sounding in this particular case.

Much of this issue is set-up, with us meeting all the characters, hearing their stories of how they survived encountering a Predator, and getting the layout of the plan to turn the tables on these aliens and make them feel what it is like to be the prey. It's completely necessary but results in an issue that is a bit slow other than an action-packed opening that for now seems mostly removed from the rest of the story but I imagine will play an important part later. It's a very solid issue, and I know things are going to get immensely violent and brutal soon, so I'm perfectly understanding of this quiet before the storm.
3 out of 5 stars.

Jungle Fantasy Annual 2017
That dependable publisher Boundless, giving me some good ol' cheesecake. There have been a number of, "Jungle Fantasy," mini-series so far, making this Annual that brings the stories of previous characters back whilst also introducing some new folk a stellar idea. As there are so many individual characters however it feels like everyone gets a pretty brief story before, "To be continued," pops-up encouraging us to buy future books set in this Universe. The stories are by no means bad however, with some featuring a lot of sex, some having exciting dino-fighting, and general heaping-doses of the tongue-in-cheek fun we've grown to expect from Boundless. Still, I did find myself at times a little annoyed by how short each story was, wishing they could be a bit more in-depth. There are plenty more, "Jungle Fantasy," books on the way though, so the wait for more shall be brief.
4 out of 5 stars.

Writing Concluded
I have now offered my thoughts on these total of six books, with some being quite impressive and others struggling to make much of an impact for me. One constant thing though is I always like reading comics and I of course enjoy sharing my impressions with all of you as well.