Friday, January 23, 2015

Einhorn's Epic Cookies AKA A Review of Delicious Treats and Fun Comic Books

Cookies and Comics? Sounds Rad!

I like to talk about comics on this blog quite often. I also sometimes will discuss food. Therefore, it makes sense that my post today is about a product that involves both! You see, I first read about Einhorn's Epic Cookies via a post on Bleeding Cool that went up a bit ago. It sounded fascinating so I checked out the website and found myself even more curious. Therefore, I got in touch with the folk behind Einhorn's Epic Cookies and got my hands on some of the comics--and of course the cookies too.

"What are Einhorn's Epic Cookies?" you may be asking, especially if you didn't click the link. Well, they are large single-serving cookies put into their wrapper with a mini-sized comic-book about some cool humanoid unicorns. There are four different flavors (which I'll discuss shortly) and you never know which issue of the comic (there are currently six print issues) you'll get with your cookie--although you can read the comics online too in order to follow the whole story. Created by Heather Einhorn--whose last name in fact is German for, "Unicorn," hence the name for the characters--Einhorn's Epic Cookies combine the fun of comics with the yum-factor of cookies, and are especially cool thanks to the creative flavors the cookies have (again, be patient and I'll talk about them soon).

Heather is a veteran of comics, having helped DC with comic conventions via the marketing department before going to work for Legendary Studios and helping them in the launching of Legendary Comics (i.e. the comic-division of the studio); Heather also is clearly imbued with quite the sweet tooth, which inspired her to go about creating the cookies. Creative Director Adam Staffaroni also was heavily involved in the creation of the comics, helping them get their fun tone and feel. I asked them via email if they came up with the cookies or the concept of a unicorn-squad first, and they responded how it all basically evolved together into the exciting mix of tastebud-pleasing and visual fun. How are the comics and cookies though?

Discussion of the Comic
Farragut is kind of a jerk.
The comic-books follow the Royal Einhorn Force (R.E.F.), a group of Unicorns tasked with protecting the king of Eintropolis as a sort of royal bodyguard group. The King has a golden horn that marks him as the ruler, and it is known as the Einhorn. The first issue is "jumbo-sized" as it says, and follows the four royal guards before they split off for separate adventures the second through fifth issues of the comics cover, with them reuniting at the end of the fifth. Their names are Houston, Broxburn, Romsey, and Cadiz, and each currently has a cookie-flavor which carries their name.

The events of the first issue involve the king being betrayed by another royal staff member named Farragut and kidnapped by Farragut's own mini-army. At this point the R.E.F. breaks apart as I mentioned and proceeds to each tackle an obstacle posed to them by Farragut's treachery. Houston attempts to rescue the King, Romsey disrupts a broadcast of lies claiming the R.E.F. killed the king,  Broxburn fights one of Farragut's toughest lackeys, and Cadiz gets the spaceship ready for when all the crew arrive at the designated meeting location. This all leads into the sixth issue where we get a little background on the Einhorn and see our heroes working at hatching a plan to save the King from Farragut.
The self-aware humor is fun.
Each issue is good fun and relatively self-contained in that you can understand what is going on without the other issues--although thanks to the issues being released online too it isn't really a problem anyway. The comics are all-ages but not in a childish sense--just accessible in that anyone can pick them-up and enjoy them. Also, there is some self-aware humor that illustrates how the comic is aware of its more absurd elements and wants to give the reader a sly-wink--but things never delve into utter parody. For example, when Romsey distracts some evil soldiers by having his break-dancing friends get their attention it is pointed out how bizarre and random it all is.

The fun writing and good art of the comics makes me easily award them...
5 out of 5 stars.

Between the colorful and fun artwork combined with the humorous and action-packed writing, it is all very reminiscent of a Saturday-Morning Cartoon--something which Heather and Adam told me were big inspirations. Just like a Saturday-Morning Cartoon, the Royal Einhorn Force comics are delightful and I was pleased that I liked them as much as I did--after all, if just the cookies were good and the comics were not that would be a shame (it'd be even worse if both were bad). Speaking of the cookies though, how about I finally tell you about them as I had promised earlier?

Talking About the Cookies
I was excited to tear into these!
Each cookie flavor is unique in its taste and creativity, with chocolate chips featuring in three of the four cookies but only being the focus in one. They are a bit more expensive than the kind of cookies in a single-serving packet you would get at the grocery store, but as they are more-so your specialty-kind of cookie and shipping is included in a purchase I would say it's still a reasonable price.

Romsey
Romsey is perhaps the best-known cookie, being a peanut butter one with some chocolate chips and bacon. Yes, you read that right, there is a bacon-flavor to the Romsey cookie! Now, if you're a vegetarian you actually can still eat a one of these as it contains faux-bacon, or fakon. It actually still tastes very good and adds a nice salt to the cookie though so don't worry about its being non-meat impacting the flavor.

I shared Romsey with a friend who loves peanut butter cookies and they were very impressed, but I have to be honest and say I'm not a huge fan of peanut butter cookies, although the addition of bacon gave it a nice "zing". Should you be someone who adores this type you will arguably be in heaven, but for me it was just a nice regular cookie made a bit above-average by the fakon.
3.5 out of 5 stars

Broxburn
I liked this one a good deal. Soft and containing just the right amount of sweetness, the oatmeal cookie has a tasty addition of maple to give it a sensation of almost melting in your mouth. There are chocolate chips too but I think they almost detract from the pleasure of tasting the oatmeal and maple working in conjunction to give you a wonderful flavor sensation. That said, Broxburn is really good and one of the tastier Oatmeal cookies I have had, rivaled only by the oatmeal cookies of my fianceé.
4 out of 5 stars.

Houston
The Houston cookie is your basic chocolate-chip type, but with an additional flavor that gives it an awesome extra crunch. This would be a stellar chocolate-chip cookie on its own, but the addition of little shards of potato chips take it to a whole different level of superb taste. As a big fan of chocolate-chip cookies I was pleased to find the potato chips added to the flavor instead of subtracting any enjoyment, giving the sweet chocolate a nice savory touch. I would declare this my favorite cookie were it not for how much I adore the next one.
5 out of 5 stars.

Cadiz
This is it, something just incredibly delicious. I shared some of this with a friend who thought it was too sweet for them, but that person was crazy because when something is a sugar cookie containing a birthday cake flavoring, sprinkles, and crisped rice it has gotta be sweet! Cadiz is like everything I adore about sugar cookies plus the addition of some crispiness thanks to the krispies.

 Biting into a Cadiz cookie is like having a party in your mouth, and all the flavors are invited--"Birthday cake? You're in! Sprinkles? Alright! Rice crisps? Aw, you know you're welcome here!" Cadiz has a great crunch to it, with that bit of "give" thanks to the rice crisps, and really is like taking a stroll back into your childhood when you dreamed up crazy flavors for food, except in this case someone actually went and made your insane idea an insanely-good flavor of cookie.
5 out of 5 stars.

Cookie Conclusions
The flavors found in Einhorn's Epic Cookies are all solid, and depending on your flavor preference you may disagree with me (I'm sure someone out there is screaming in rage at my score for the peanut butter cookie because that's his/her favorite) or think I'm right on-the-money. I would encourage you to try all the flavors if able, with the store found here, but if you can only do one, I'm a Cadiz fan all the way.

Final Thoughts
Einhorn's Epic Cookies are--if you'll pardon the cliché of the saying--two great things that are even better together, with the "things" in this case being tasty cookies and radical comics. After tasting and reading everything I can consider myself a big fan and someone who proudly supports the Royal Einhorn Force in their mission of protecting Eintropolis and giving us delicious sweets. I would encourage you to check out Einhorn's Epic Cookies' website (here's a link again) to explore the comics, learn more about the flavors, and perhaps enjoy the fun 80's-style theme song. I know once I save up some scratch I'm going to get me a t-shirt to show my support! Now the only questions are if the R.E.F. will be able to save the king, and what your favorite flavor will be.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Marvel To Possibly Relaunch and Maybe Reboot? Let's Examine the Possibilities...

What's Going On?
The Announcement To End All Announcements!
Well, at least until the next one.
Marvel made an announcement yesterday that I've taken a day to let soak into me like a fine marinade inside some meat. Well, I guess it is more like a borrowed marinade because didn't DC just do a big event that led into a relaunch around the Fall of 2011? I'm kidding, sort of, because depending on how you read what Marvel has claimed, this could mean something as simple as the regular Marvel-U and the Ultimate Universe combining in some fashion. Then again it could be an utter gigantic reboot or maybe it's all a ploy and things won't change much at all.

You see, Marvel has this event called "Secret Wars" going on, and it will involve a bunch of various alternate realities we know and love being smashed together for the event and...battling it out, I guess? Really, the details of everything aren't yet super-clear. It all builds out of a the current run of certain "Avengers" comics that have had the heroes dealing with the fact that every once-in-awhile two alternate-reality worlds will have an "incursion" and if one isn't destroyed they both are.

Our Marvel heroes have been dealing with the incursions by basically becoming monsters and destroying innocent worlds, but as I understand it when the Ultimate Universe and the normal Marvel Universe (also known as 616) have an incursion something happens that results in the aforementioned Battleworld and gives us "Secret Wars", which Marvel is calling the event to end all events. I can see this going a few ways.

The Possibilities
Perhaps this would lead to something amazing.
1. Everything Works Out Wonderfully AKA The Least Likely Option
Perhaps Marvel is going to do this event, and give us a Marvel Universe that isn't necessarily a reboot, but has tweaked enough things that it opens the possibility for even more great new comics and stories (as I was just recently saying are needed) ushering in a golden age of creativity and joy. This is the ideal situation so it is the one I doubt will occur.

Don't be sad,
I'm sure he will be back soon-ish.
2. Very Little Changes AKA The Most Likely Option
Marvel has this big event, and in the end not much has changed. Perhaps some questionable stories are scrubbed from continuity, and a number of the Ultimate Universe characters get melded into the 616 Universe because that line is pretty unprofitable at this point and most likely is going to destroyed/no longer have issues made of it. We get some characters Marvel has recently killed brought back (hello, Wolverine) and perhaps kill-off some characters who will undoubtedly be brought back at a later date, but if they die it'll make things more, "dramatic." I'm unsure what exactly would happen, but my thinking is that despite changing some stuff in the end not that much will be altered. I can see this easily occurring.

Could everything change?
3.We Get a Dramatic Reboot AKA The Unlikely-Yet-Possible Option
Marvel could do a dramatic re-boot where the world is basically brand-new or has a lot of its past history altered (kind of like the New 52 where some stories "count" and others don't). Marvel could do things that result in better multi-media opportunities, such as taking the Fantastic Four and writing them out of the Universe (I mean, this is the group Marvel has been phasing out to spite Fox, it wouldn't surprise me if they ceased to exist, at least as we currently know them). Hell, maybe Marvel will get rid of mutants (along with the current X-men) and make everyone an Inhuman so that they can make movies with those characters (hello, Inhuman-version of Wolverine which Marvel would theoretically be able to use in their flicks)!

This all feels unlikely, but also quite possible depending on what Marvel is thinking for the future, and what their boss-company (Disney) wants. After all, if we are honest, Disney cares more about what they can do with the Marvel films than the comics, so if changes in the comic-line make it possible to get more bucks from the flicks, those changes will probably happen. The question of if such a dramatic reboot would result in good comics or bad ones would take a bit to find-out, but at least it would be kind of fun to witness.

In Conclusion, I Have No Conclusion Yet
This man from a stock-photo site isn't sure what the future holds either.
It is still too early to know what exactly "Secret Wars" will entail, and what the end-result will be. I imagine it will be interesting to see what the final product is, and whether we get something amazingly good, just like what we had before, or radically new and different is a question we'll hopefully have answered by the time Fall arrives.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Television Tuesday--My Big Fat Fabulous Life

Reality television, especially the kind found on TLC, was my guilty pleasure of 2014. It may very well end-up being my guilty pleasure of 2015 if the start of this new year is any indication with shows such as "My Big Fat Fabulous Life" now getting my viewership.

"BFFL", as I will call it from now on because it is easier to type and if you say it out loud it sounds fun (kind of like, "Biffel"), is a show about a woman named Whitney Thore (check her website out here), along with her parents and friends. Whitney gained some attention when a video she posted of herself dancing went viral about a year ago, and she is currently working at making more videos, finding a man to fall in love with, and the like.
Whitney and her friend practicing a new dance routine.
"Tons of people make videos of themselves dancing, what made her clip so special?" you may be asking. Well, Whitney is a large woman and proud of it, or as she puts it, "I'm a fat-ass, but I'm also a bad-ass." Whitney's video of, "A fat girl dancing," got attention because many people liked to see a woman who was comfortable with her body doing something that it is sometimes thought only skinny people would do--namely dancing super-intensely.

Whitney is okay with the fact she is large, but does want to lose weight for health reasons, and it is at this point we arrive to a plot element that makes Whitney a bit different from the usual large person. You see, Whitney has polycystic ovary syndrome, an endocrine disorder which can increase the testosterone in her body and causes many women with it to gain immense weight. This resulted in Whitney gaining hundreds of pounds during college and being unsure what the problem was until recently, where we now see her okay with her body but still wanting to lose weight and be healthier.
The fact Whitney has PCOS makes me think TLC is kind of getting to have its cake and eat it too. They get to have a show about a large woman who talks about how she loves her body despite people judging her, but have the caveat of, "Oh, but she didn't get large like most people." Basically, TLC gets to not anger those who support large people with a show that says, "Love your weight," but also keep health-nuts pleased with the message, "It's okay to lose weight too, and again, don't get mad at us because she has a medical reason for the weight also."

A part of me just feels like TLC should own the message of, "Bigger is better," or "Losing weight is good," instead of trying to have it both ways, but that has nothing to do with Whitney or her journeys through life as much as it has to do with TLC. Putting aside the question of TLC's motivations with the show it is worth discussing how it is.
Whitney's parents are quite fun.
"BFFL" is a perfectly enjoyable program. Whitney is funny, open about her body, not afraid to discuss her sexuality (something I admire as it sometimes seems the media wants to ignore that fat people have sex, instead only focusing on the sexuality of skinny folk), and seems like a legitimately nice person you would enjoy being around--unlike some people on reality shows whom you want to shake some sense into. Whitney's mother, Babs, is absolutely hilarious and her father, Glenn, is nice too. She has a brother named Hunter also, but his screen time was so minimal in the first episode I don't really have a feel for him.

We see other folks pop-up on the show too, from her dancing-partner to a male friend who may grow into more than a friend if previews of what this season holds are any indication. It is basically just your regular reality show following someone going about their life, with one of the "hooks" being how Whitney is a larger woman, and the other "hook" arguably being how she is quite the skilled dancer and working to possibly make a career out of it. It would be somewhat unremarkable were it not for two elements...

One thing is that Whitney is in fact a really, really good dancer regardless of her weight, and her routines are quite impressive to watch. The second element is that Whitney really is quite fun and easy-to-like, something it seems too many reality shows lack with us hating the main characters (I don't know about you, but anytime I see a Kardashian on my television screen I want to vomit in rage and agony).

Having only viewed one episode of "BFFL" so far, and keeping in mind my post about how you should never too quickly judge a show based on its pilot or early episodes, I am cautiously optimistic that this might be a program I enjoy watching. Putting aside any questions of what TLC is trying to say with the show or get out of it publicity-wise, "BFFL" is good fun, thanks to the fact that Whitney is such an enjoyable person. Were Whitney less of a delight this show would easily be a clunker, but she makes it incredibly fun even during the more dull moments. With that in mind, I can say that terms of sheer enjoyment the first episode is easily...

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Now it just remains to be seen if future installments of the show can continue the trend, with the second episode airing tonight on TLC at 10PM Eastern, 9PM Central.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

I Loved "The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl" AKA Marvel Needs To Do More Books Like this

Wait, Squirrel Girl?
It came out a tad ago, but I finally got the time to read and greatly enjoy, "The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl". Who is Squirrel Girl though? A bit of a cult-character, Doreen Green AKA Squirrel Girl first appeared in a 1980's Marvel-short where she helped Iron Man defeat Doctor Doom (yes really). After that she disappeared until the 2000's when she popped-up in the Great Lakes Avengers/X-men (they use various names) comics which were a somewhat comedic take on super-heroes struggling to make a difference in a world where Z-list folk like them can barely compete with big-time heroes. It was written by Dan Slott and much of the thanks for Squirrel Girl gaining popularity belongs with him. She appeared in some other comics after that, but the running-joke has always been despite her unassuming name and power-set she is a huge danger to villains, capable of defeating even cosmic-size threats such as Thanos...
Hence, Squirrel Girl is essentially unbeatable, but that fact is more played for comedic-relief than anything else. This made me wonder how a Squirrel Girl comic would work. I mean, her defeating Doctor Doom and such is actual in-canon Marvel history, but such feats were normally shown as being funny. So, I imagined a "Squirrel Girl" comic that was super-serious could fail miserably. Thankfully, everyone else involved with making the comic realized this too and "Squirrel Girl" is a fun and funny delight..

"The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl" #1 Rocks!
Writer Ryan North has written a variety of humorous comics and artist Erica Henderson brings a peppy style to a comic that by all logic should be at best weird and at worst terrible, but is in fact incredibly good fun...and weird, but in a cool way.

We open with Doreen Green going off to college and nary a mention of any past experiences her character has had for those worried about continuity leading to confusion. Her faithful side-kick Tippy Toe is there too, arguing about the point of going to college while Doreen struggles to hide her squirrel-gifts from others. We meet her new roommate, and watch her defeat Kraven the Hunter in her own unique way--continuing the trend of her being impossible to defeat. It is a relatively mellow issue, especially considering how the next will apparently take Squirrel Girl to the moon for a fight with Galactus!
It's a comic crafted with a great deal of care, from the amazing art by Henderson to the pitch-perfect writing by North. I'm overjoyed to say that the art is bright and energetic, and the plot gives us a Squirrel Girl who is smart, self-assured, and otherwise awesome. This comic was just wonderful, so it got me to thinking...why don't/doesn't (depending on if you think of Marvel as  a singular entity of multiple folk) Marvel do more comics like this?

The Obsession with Events and "Important" books...
There are countless version of "The Avengers",
so how will it be that new or different?
Marvel has been doing more offbeat comics recently, but still seems to be putting plenty of focus on the usual event-madness in their other titles. We've got stellar unique books like "Hawkeye" (soon to re-launch with a new creative team), "Moon Knight", and "Ms. Marvel" (See End-Note 1), all critical darlings and commercial successes, but then yet another mega cross-over happens every month or so. Perhaps as I grow older, crankier, and try to be more responsible with money I've grown tired of these expensive mega-events that change everything (at least until the next event) so I appreciate stand-alone books such as the upcoming "Howard the Duck" more-so than all this "Secret Wars" business--even if I think the idea of it sounds fun.

Then of course, there is the problem of how if a book isn't a huge galaxy-changing comic it is somehow less important than the latest "Avengers" or "X-Men" comic that kills off some hero who will return in a few months. Just because a book is in continuity but not "important" it is absurd to act like it is less worth reading. One reason I'm doing more independent books or enjoying comics from the Big Two that are out of continuity (You rock, "Injustice"!") is if a book lacks the pressure of "mattering" in some big comic-Universe it can really cut loose more--like our titular Squirrel Girl's book does.
The biggest continuity-aspect of this book is one thing that gets mentioned.
Namely, how "Squirrel Girl" was living at the "Avengers Mansion" previously.
Apparently in some older Avenger-comics she was a nanny to Luke Cage and Jessica Jones' baby.
It is true that not every "different" comic Marvel does is a surefire hit--everyone still is sad about "She-Hulk" ending--but if a big thing the comic-book industry wants is more readers, doing books such as "Squirrel Girl" might help. A fun comic unburdened by a ton of continuity about a strong female character--that also happens to be a hoot to read. Their titles don't have to all be funny in the manner "Squirrel Girl" is, but just doing more experimental stuff other than potentially more Avenger comics would be great (See End-Note 2).

In the end whatever makes more money and gets more press will get the most copies made. I suppose only time will tell if Marvel will try more out-there books, with it being more likely if titles such as "Squirrel Girl" can make a big splash in the market. For now, at least I can enjoy this debut issue of "Squirrel Girl" and joyfully award it...
5 out of 5 stars.

End-Note 1: "Ms. Marvel" admittedly came out of "Infinity" but you don't have to know much about that to enjoy it.

End-Note 2: I have to confess I do continue to enjoy "Captain America and the Mighty Avengers" which grew out of the most-recent "Mighty Avengers" even if I'm sick of most other Avengers titles.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

So, We Like The New Background?

Longtime readers of the blog probably grew quite familiar with the background I had of various super-hero characters I liked. Well, I decided to change things up and altered the background and a few colors on the site earlier today. I now have some other images of characters and comics I enjoy and think it is pretty sharp. As I haven't received any e-mail or tweets deriding the new look I suppose folk like it--or at least don't hate it. Anyways, thanks to everyone who has enjoyed the site before and continue to support it--along with all the new readers who stop by!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Let Me Get This Straight--There Are Going To Be How Many "Star Wars" Variant Covers This Wednesday?

What I Understand
This is the actual, "standard" cover.
Once upon a time Marvel published "Star Wars"comics. Then they quit caring about the brand enough that Dark Horse swooped in and printed a ton of comics related to that galaxy set far, far away. However, Disney bought Marvel, and then some time later Disney bought the entirety of the rights to Star Wars. It doesn't really make sense for you to continue publishing comics with a company you don't own if there is a perfectly good one you do have complete ownership of, and that led to a big change.

Therefore, "Star Wars" has returned to Marvel and a big hullabaloo is being made of it, with Marvel conveniently forgetting how they essentially ditched "Star Wars" long ago and this isn't a homecoming so much as being forced by the House of Mouse to print comics that will undoubtedly bring in a decent amount of money as we approach the new "Star Wars" flicks coming out. This all makes perfect sense, and isn't what I need to get straight. No, what is bothering me is how many variant covers "Star Wars" #1 may in fact get.

What I Don't Understand/Let Me Get This Straight...
This is a variant you get via your Gamestop points.
Yes, really.
Let me get this straight: Over 100 variant covers will exist for this first issue of "Star Wars" coming out Wednesday, January 14th, 2015? Wow, and it may very well be a record-breaker. You have the variants stores get for ordering a bunch of copies of the first issue, you have store-exclusive variants, you have variants you can only buy through using Gamestop points and I imagine if you have a friend who once doodled a picture of Darth Vader that has its own variant too, considering how crazy this is all getting.

Therefore, we now reach what I really don't understand: Why does Disney/Marvel think we need this many "Star Wars" variant covers? Is it because the brand is so popular and about to come back in a big way this year (i.e. the movie)? Could it be various retailing entities wanted a piece of this "Star Wars" pie and the easiest way to to do so was to give them a variant cover? Maybe this is really just all about how the publisher knows some people will spend countless dollars on variants so why not put them out--especially if you can make retailers order a ton of copies of the normal cover in order to make them even eligible for the sought-after variants? It is probably a mixture of all these reasons, really.
Here is the blank variant edition.
Interestingly, having an artist you like sketch on it would probably harm its value.
Putting aside reasons for the variants, let's be honest for a moment here; in a good year or so all those standard-cover versions of "Star Wars" #1 will be in the dollar-bin, especially considering this comic is going to sell over a million copies with all those covers combined. The reason for the "binning" will be so many copies were printed and ordered of this comic that the regular cover is all-but-worthless with only variants having maybe any value (although it wouldn't surprise me to see some more common variants thrown in the dollar-bin too). With so many copies being printed and all these variants anyone who thinks this comic is going to be worth much is crazy.

It isn't like this is a comic that will be hard to find, it will be an incredibly common comic with some rare covers. That usually isn't as big a value as an actually hard-to-find comic. After all, "The Walking Dead" #1 didn't have many issues printed and is worth a ton, while the 100th issue had a bunch of variants with some worth more than others, but that issue of the comic itself ain't pulling in much scratch compared to the series' debut.
I"ll admit this variant by Alex Maleev is neat.
It's limited to 3,000 copies though so don't expect to find it easily.
Comics in general are not a good investment unless it is an already old and valuable issue of something. That said, you are more likely to make some cash off of a comic that is hard to find than you are with a variant that is rare, in most cases. A comic with a bunch of variants can still be found and read with its normal cover, a rare comic is something that you can basically only enjoy via trades, reprints, or a digital purchase.

This is why I'm having trouble getting this all straightened out. I just don't understand why so many variants seems necessary (or why variants in general are necessary), and if my past posts are anything to go by I usually won't see the point of a variant. The only time I've bought a variant is if it is relatively cheap, the comic is one I enjoyed, and it is a really cool cover. Unless those three attributes can be met I generally am not going to seek out a variant.
This variant exclusive to a store in Sydney, Australia is at least humorous.
It all just seems silly in the end, with all these people seeking out the comic for the variety of covers, and not the admittedly quite solid creative team working on the comic (Jason Aaron is writing, John Cassaday is supplying art). I suppose in the end it is something I will never be able to get straight, or understand. Whatever the case, I hope everyone enjoys the comic and its variants with the official release tomorrow.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Film Friday (Disregard How it is Saturday)--I Actually DID See "The Interview"

Well, That Changed Quickly
Available in various formats now!
Back during the week before Christmas it had been announced by Sony that they were not going to release "The Interview", which for those of you living under a rock is the Seth Rogen and James Franco movie where the government tries to get their characters to assassinate Kim Jong Un (the leader of North Korea). Everyone freaked out and got angry, so Sony changed course and announced any theater that wanted to show "The Interview" could--resulting in smaller chains and independent theaters jumping on the chance--and that it would be available to rent or buy online--basically an "on demand" release.

It has made a nice amount through this online method, and for all we know could be the first hint of a future where more movies are released to success simultaneously for theater-viewing and home-watching at the same time for people to choose what they prefer (Note: this sort of method had been attempted before, but usually with lesser-known movies, or lately via Kickstarted flicks). With all the hubbub that surrounded the release of the movie itself however, how is the film itself? Pretty good, if not amazing.

A Review of "The Interview"
"The Interview" is a pleasant movie. I don't mean "pleasant" in that it is polite or genteel, it is anything but that. It is full of the usual absurd toilet humor, sex jokes, and otherwise nastiness one expects from Rogen and Franco, but if you like that stuff--as I do--it is a nice way to spend about two hours, hence my thinking I had a pleasant time. There are hints of political satire, but "The Interview" seems at times unsure whether it wants to be another silly gross-out flick, or an actual satire of one of the last mostly-secluded dictatorships left in the world (there are plenty of other dictatorships out there, but few as mysterious and walled-off as North Korea).

While not too often being especially insightful or political, it is easy to see why North Korea would have been mad about this movie as the film portrays Kim Jong Un as an insecure jerk prone to fits of rage and incapable of controlling of his bowels. Still, the assassination plot is more an excuse for Rogen and Franco to get up to their usual hi jinks than anything worth getting especially mad about, as it seemed some folk did what with Sony getting hacked.
As some defectors from North Korea discuss in their review of the film, certain parts are strangely apt, as while there may not be fake grocery stores as shown to Franco and Rogen in the movie, there are plenty of "sets" created to show off a false image of positivism for the nation. Also, the opening of the movie with a small girl singing about how the U.S. should burn in Hell apparently isn't too far removed from some of the North Korean propaganda that portrays itself as a shining beacon of perfection with the rest of the world being a jealous hellhole. That said, while there is this political undertone, a lot of the time we still get plenty of poop-jokes and raunchy comments--just sometimes with the occasional political commentary.

Besides the occasional clever political thought two things struck me the most about the film. First was how Lizzy Caplan has really grown-up from being a kid like me when she was in "Mean Girls" all those years ago to now being an adult CIA agent in this movie.
God, I feel old thinking how she and I have aged.
At least we both grew into beautiful women.
The other thing that I found interesting was how Randall Park did an amazing job playing Kim Jong Un, really looking like him and expertly making the character start out seemingly nice and likable when he first meets Rogen and Franco, before slowly revealing his insanity.

Park has appeared in a variety of serious and humorous roles so his skills are put to good use as the character who is basically the focal point of the movie's plot and whom gets the most screen-time besides Rogen and Franco. It's the kind of part that the movie hinges upon, because if the portrayal of Kim Jong Un were poor it would sink the entire flick, therefore Park's superb job is admirable.
Park is excellent as Un.
While "The Interview" may not be incredibly insightful, it does manage to make some clever statements about propaganda and how nations such as North Korea use it to their advantage. Plus it features the usual silly and vulgar humor I enjoy (and by now expect) from Rogen and/or Franco. It may not win any awards, but as I said at the start of my review, it was a pleasant way to pass some time. Should you be a fan of Rogen and Franco's films and their style of humor I would recommend checking "The Interview" out via on-demand or if you have a theater that is showing it.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Review of the Stellar "Nobrow 9: It's Oh So Quiet"

How to Express Silence?
When it comes to expressing silence that's something easy to do aurally--you just don't have sound. How does one express the concept of silence in visual artwork, however? In a comic book you could not have speech-bubbles, I suppose, but there still can be the sensation of sound being made. I mean, we see things that we associate with being noisy, so how can artwork truly express silence? It is an interesting question.

Therefore, when I saw how "Nobrow 9" from the publisher Nobrow was covering the question of expressing silence in the latest entry of the fascinating anthology series, I was intrigued. While it wasn't the case with the earliest issues, as of late the format for the "Nobrow" anthologies involves the technique of having illustration on one side of the book and comics on the other, with the reader "flipping" the item itself so as to always be able to read left-to-right as us English-speakers are wont to do. The entirety of each issue also has a four-color palette that gives all the comics and art pieces a somewhat unified look in terms of the color scheme even if the content of each entry can vary greatly. Considering how illustrations and comics are both different sides of the same coin/book, I thought it would make sense to review each portion with its own rating, starting with comics first.

Comics

The thing with an anthology is often there are stellar comics along with ones that are less enjoyable. Part of this is that due to taste some of us will prefer certain stories over others, regardless of the craftsmanship within the comic itself. That said, every comic within this entry of "Nobrow 9" is expertly produced, but I liked some tales more than others. However, as is important when it comes to an anthology, I liked more than I didn't. Some comic-entries were almost more straight-up sequential art pieces, from Jim Stoten's pictures-within-pictures piece to Edward Carvalho Monaghan's "Bottles" comic. The fact they were silent wasn't really expressed within the story so much as due to being more a piece of art there wasn't as much need for a sensation of sound or the lack thereof.

Three of the stories I especially liked actually indicated the presence of speech and sound but cleverly kept us from knowing what exactly was said. Jamie Coe's story, "Fitting in," is the usual tale of adolescent troubles where a young person has to withstand bullies, but much of what we understand is contextual, as while we see mouths moving we can't know for sure what was said. The same emphasis on mouths occurs in my favorite story of the anthology, "The Silent Visitor". A weird tale of an alien that comes to Earth and hooks-up with a woman (among other things), we again do not see any actual speech-bubbles but from the way the woman's mouth is illustrated and her facial expressions she makes it often is quite apparent what the gist is. Joseph Lambert's entry is interesting too, with there actually being speech bubbles as characters talk, but said bubbles remain just out-of-frame, as if the comic cut-off some extra inches that would allow us to understand what is being said. It's quite the fun concept.
Other entries in the anthology express silence as a way of loneliness, whether Bianca Bagnarelli's piece about a child traveling long distances alone, or, "Silent Night," by Arne Bellstorf with its depressed female lead. Also, Hellen Jo's , "Are you there Lucifer,? It's Me, Cindy" could be read as a somewhat comedic take of a bored and lonesome woman trying to summon the devil for company (even if as with most things involving the devil it all goes awry). Not to mention how, the journey of a garden-monk statute in the first piece by Jon McNaught could be a reflection of how even objects have the human experience of spending their lives traveling some and seeing the world to eventually settle down with like-minded company.

With so many pieces I liked, it is okay that I found myself less impressed by others. William Exley's piece about a woman in a museum tricking some other trouble-makers was cute but drawn in a way that I found myself confused by the story's flow--with the same problem afflicting the otherwise interesting, "Dead End," by Kristen Rothbart. Even though the point of Zosia Dzierzawska's comic about an old tenement building escaped me, I had other pieces such as Kyla Vanderklugt's, "Wings," to keep my mind sufficiently busy with good stories and great art. Plus, as I said at the start, even if I didn't care a for a comic they all still looked incredibly beautiful.
I loved "The Silent Visitor" story
With this mixture of stories, I discovered more tales I liked than not, and as such that makes the comic-side of this anthology a great success for having contributions which I greatly enjoyed. Hence, I award a superb rating of...
4 out of 5 stars.

Art
Interestingly enough this website loved this piece the most too.
Oh man, how to rate art, especially when it all looks so good as within this side of the "Nobrow 9" book? I suppose I could just discuss how almost every piece was beautiful, with Stephen Carcello's picture of a quiet island with an ice-cream truck inexplicably crashed upon it being my favorite. That, or I could post-up a bunch of images and go, "See? It's incredible stuff!" Lastly, I could just tell you that you ought to seek out this book so as to fully enjoy the art and have this review section just be incredibly brief. You know, I think I'll do the last option I mentioned.
5 out of 5 stars.

In Conclusion

Is "Norbrow 9" worth seeking out and purchasing? Yes, I would say with no hesitation. If you are someone who enjoys great comics you'll quite like the book, and if you're a fan of great art you'll absolutely love it. You can follow this link to learn more about this issue of the series (it currently is sold-out on the site, however), and I would encourage you to do so.

Side-Note: A copy of "Norbrow 9" was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Television Tuesday--I Broke My Rule Against Binge-Watching AKA "True Detective Season One"

I Normally Don't Binge-Watch
Thanks to the website, "You're my Favorite Today" for making me chuckle at this realization.

I have a thing against binge-watching. I know many people love to do it, but I just often don't care for it. I usually feel the best way to enjoy a show is to slowly take it in, savoring an episode or two a night until you're eventually finished with a season or series. I worry that if you rush through a show all at once you miss certain things, skip out on the chance to reflect about the show, and worst of all feel pretty terrible when you binge-watch a program and then feel that horrible depression of realizing it is over.

All of that said, I just recently broke my rule against binge-watching. Now, I had done some heavy-viewing of shows before that could be argued to border on binge-watching--such as when I watched a lot of "BoJack Horseman" over some days, but I had never really truly engaged in a binge before this weekend when I watched the entirety of a show's season within a single day. As for the show that I broke my rule against binge-watching for, it was "True Detective".

Why Did I Binge on this Show?
Due to lacking HBO I didn't watch "True Detective" when it was first coming out, although I would see occasional articles or internet posts talking about how it was a wonderful show full of strange elements, drama, action, and everything else people want in their entertainment. I really didn't know what the show was about other than how it involved two detectives--played by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson--who face a crime in the near-present day that they thought was solved back in the 1990's. Still, I liked the two main actors, have enjoyed other HBO projects, and generally like a good mystery story, so I rented the first season from a V-Stock (they're like if Barnes and Noble, Gamestop, and a comic-book and trading-card store had a baby) on Friday and proceeded to devour the entirety of the first season the next day.

Now, one big question is why did I binge-watch this show? I'm not sure, honestly. Perhaps it was because at just eight hour-long episodes it felt manageable. It could be I didn't want to have to re-rent the DVD if I got busy after the weekend and lacked the chance to watch further. Maybe I binged because I was curious about who "The Yellow King" actually was. I reckon it is a mixture of all of those factors. As it is, I'm happy it was "True Detective" I chose to binge-watch as it was a really good show, if not the best-ever as some claim.

How is the Show Itself?
"True Detective" is fascinatingly weird. Although in the end the plot turned out to be a pretty standard murder-mystery whodunit with a moderately straightforward villain, there was plenty of surreal aspects to the show that made it a bizarre journey regardless of the conventional destination. Rustin Chole (played by McConaughey) is as nihilistic as you would imagine a person can get. He's often quiet and reserved, but once he gets going on philosophy, the futility of life, the psychosphere, and other concepts you've got to pay close attention if you have any hope of understanding what he is getting at. Meanwhile, his partner Marty Hart (Harelson) is your regular guy, albeit with some anger issues and a tendency to cheat on his wife. Together they deal with personal issues whilst attempting to solve a strange murder in 1995 with occult-themes.

The show follows an interesting structure of having the characters in the present day sitting in a police office for the first two-thirds or so of the season, often narrating what happened in the past with us viewing it, moving closer and closer to the present day until in the remaining number of episodes we see our two detectives come back together to attempt and solve a mystery that they thought had ended in 1995, but clearly wasn't actually solved.
"True Detective" has two fascinating leads and some other solid supporting gentlemen in the cast. While the females on the show are barely developed as characters to a somewhat worryingly misogynistic degree, "True Detective" earns enough goodwill from being an intriguing story that you can almost overlook flaws such as those. Almost.

"True Detective" has so many great attributes, it makes the troubling annoyances especially irksome, as one could almost think this would be the perfect show if not for them. The aforementioned portrayal of females, how certain characters from the case in 1995's relation to the villain 2012 is minimally mentioned, the hints of a massive conspiracy that end up mostly dropped at the end,  and if the supernatural aspects were meant more as a delusion of Cohle's or were in fact a kind of extra-sensory intuition, to name some complaints (I'll actually let that last one slide, as leaving it up-in-the-air about Cohole is kind of clever).
Still, despite some things being irritating there is plenty to find pleasurable in the first season of "True Detective". I love the acting, the dour mood is perfectly set by cinematography, this season is its own self-contained story with the next featuring a brand-new cast and case, and of course that six-minute long tracking-shot in episode four is just plain incredible.

All the positives and negatives coming together still results in a show with more to applaud than reprimand, and for that reason "True Detective" is indeed a high-quality program I would suggest others watch and delight in as I already have. Still, the final question of course becomes, was my exercise in binge-watching worth it?

So, Was Binge-Watching the Right Choice?
My biggest worry with binge-watching is how I mentioned I'm concerned about missing certain details due to barreling-through a season. Fascinatingly enough, during my binge-experience with "True Detective" I picked up on certain things I might not have noticed were I watching the episodes with a greater span of time between viewings. Little things such as how Hart would always check a pay-phone's coin slot after making a call, or how a mention by Cohle of a strange taste in the air is discussed again towards the end of the season. This has me thinking that just as perhaps there are benefits to taking a show slowly, certain aspects of binge-watching can be recommended too.

In the end it comes down to how much time one has to either binge-watch or steady-watch--as I call it. Should you have the hours to spend I suppose there is nothing wrong with binge-watching, as long as you understand that by having spent a whole day with a show you might have an immense depression once it is all gone so fast (the biggest downside to binge-watching, from what I've observed). Therefore, I can't really say if my binge-watching "True Detective" was the right choice or the wrong one. It simply was a choice I made. I'm unsure whether I plan to binge on any other shows in the future or savor them slowly, but I will say that if one were to binge on "True Detective" or take their viewing of it slowly, they still will have a downright fun time.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year/2014 In Review Master-List

Welcome to 2015!
We are now officially in the New Year all over the world, with some time-zones already within January 2nd. I hope everyone had a wonderful 2014 and enjoys an even better 2015. Considering how I did an absolute deluge of posts about my favorite things of 2014 I thought I should also post a master-list sorted by category to make browsing the articles easier. Without further ado...

2014 In Review Master-List
Posts About Comic-Books
My favorite ongoing comics
My favorite cancelled comics
Best single issue of a comic: Pax Americana
Weirdest comic of the year: Sex
Writer of the year: Kieron Gillen
Artist of the year: Fiona Staples (with honorable mention Jamie McKelvie)
Writer-artist of the year: Michel Fiffe
Colorist of the year: Jordie Bellaire

Posts On Various Forms of Media
The best movies of 2014 I still need to see
My lack of a favorite music album in 2014
Reality television AKA my guilty pleasure of the year
Video-game of the year: Hearthstone

Posts Focusing on Food
The discontinued food item of 2014 I will miss most: Fresh Take
The food item I enjoyed the most in 2014: Chicken fingers

Post Discussing the Best Fianceé of 2014
Fianceé of the Year: Samii