Saturday, January 28, 2012

Rant-Reviews--Violence, Lot's and Lot's of Violence

If It Bleeds It Leads...Or Something Gross Like That
As the subject reads, these here comics have a fair share of violence in them. I've got  "Men of War #5", "The Punisher #7", "Sacrifice #2", "The Last of The Greats #4", and "Wolverine And The X-Men: Alpha and Omega #1," (ain't that a mouthful).

Men of War #5
God, I love this comic and curse the Gods (AKA DC Editorial) for cancelling it. True, its being replaced with a simillar comic about soldiers fighting dinosaurs or something else that sounds like it could be awesome, but why my, "Men of War?" It's like a gritty war comic that has to deal with how it keeps getting confused by bumping up against all the weird super-hero and supernatural elements of the DC Universe. It's so crazy and clever--plus it looks good. It's like that girl you go out on some dates with and she's just perfect, but then she tells you she's moving out of town. It really sucks. Hey, there is that other girl who looks like the one you like and from descriptions sounds kind of like her though, so maybe things will work out? Right? Right?
4.5 out of 5 stars.

The Punisher #7
Greg Rucka is a good enough writer that he can make two men riding in a car talking for a whole comic seem gripping (and there is some action-filled art to help show what they are talking about too). It's still a comic that is pretty much two men riding in a car however, and while that might read great in trade paperbacks, for a whole issue of a comic it is a little slow. I love how Rucka uses an old story to illustrate a point about the Punisher however. STILL, it's an issue of two men in a fucking car! I could ride in a car with another man discussing something interesting and we'd have this comic, potentially. I say potentially because I'd need someone to illustrate it, and we'd need some kind of murderous vigilante for aforementioned friend and myself to talk about. You may be asking yourself, "Why would two average men in a car talk about a murderous vigilante?" Simple, that's what dudes talk about when women aren't around. Seriously, it isn't sports, it's how we would stop the Punisher. Men are more complicated than you think like that.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Sacrifice #2
This is a self-published comic so if one of the comic stores you frequent isn't cool enough to carry it you may have to resort to the internet. It's worth doing so as this is a pretty cool series. It's by Sam Humphries with some crazy art by Dalton Rose. Basically this guy travels back in time accidentally to see the Aztec's shortly before the Spanish came and killed them all. Our hero is thought of as some kind of religious sign, but just wants to get home, and between the tension of the destruction that is inevitably coming and the bits of humor a great comic is had. I'd make the bit of extra effort you might need to engage in to check it out.
4 out of 5 stars.

The Last Of The Greats #4
This comic is just bizarre. Picture "Irredeemable" if it were even darker and nobody knew the "hero" was super-evil. Seriously, this is twisted and dark. I like those aspects, but also find the comic to be moving along a bit too slowly in some respects compared to the more snappy earlier issues. Perhaps the upcoming conclusion will bring things to a delicious end. Still, any comic that has the hero sleep with Oprah as happened in issue #3 earns some cred with me.
3 out of 5 stars.

Wolverine and the X-Men: Alpha and Omega #1
First off, this has nothing to do with that terrible Disney movie about wolves. Second, this does have the talented Brian Wood writing for Marvel, and writing one of my favorite lesser-known but suddenly blowing-up characters, Quentin Quire, very well. It's just, this is kind of meh in a few ways. It's another one of those stories about Wolverine being trapped in some fake world created mentally by someone out to get him (in this case Quire, who is doing it more just for kicks than anything else). Oh, and the mutant Armor is a part of it too. Perhaps some kind of crazy twist will occur, but right now it's just a mind take-over story that is being written really well because they got a talented writer for it. We will see where it goes. Right now it's like getting a really talented chief to make you a cheeseburger. It's going to be a great burger, but they could create something a lot better, ya know?
3 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Flashpoint Hardcover, A Movie About Damn Dirty Apes, And "Our Love Is Real"

A New Morning
Flashpoint had its hardcover come out a bit ago, I read that and thought I would offer some opinions. I also viewed, "Rise of The Planet Of The Apes," and found it quite solid. I also wanted to discuss an odd little sci-fi comic I read titled, "Our Love Is Real."

Countless Tie-Ins Aside, Was The Main Story Good?--Flashpoint Hardcover

Seriously, this comic had a lot of tie-ins. For those out of the know, "Flashpoint," had this plot where Barry Allen, The Flash, wakes up from a nap and the whole Universe has changed with only our titular hero being aware everything has gone horribly wrong. The main comic told his story while the many, many tie-in comics fleshed out the Universe. I didn't bother with almost any of the tie-in comics and it seems I didn't miss much as only the Batman one was truly awesome, and the Outsider one was worth a gander.

We essentially have a tale of another universe as Barry Allen and Batman (who Batman is in this Universe is a pretty nifty twist) try to go about fixing things--and what a messed up universe it is. Aquaman and Wonder Woman are villains at war with one another, there never was a Superman, and Frankenstein's monster fought in World War II. Okay, that last one is actually pretty cool and good thing, but you see where I'm going with this.

The question is if this comic is in fact worth reading if you don't know much about DC continuity or didn't bother to pick up all those other stories that relate to this. I would say, yeah, this is a pretty good yarn. Writer Geoff Johns can tell a fun tale without too much blood and guts or death (See: Blackest Night for something with those features) when he wants to, and this is pretty entertaining. From the none-too-shocking twists that occur off-and-on to the nice artwork, and heartwarming quiet scenes to go with the crazy action-packed ones, this is a generally good time.
True, you could get all the other issues/upcoming trades to fill-out the whole story, but you don't really need to (although as I said, that Batman one is pretty killer). Not knowing much about DC continuity didn't hurt me too much even though I wasn't sure who some of the people were and why it was surprising they were suddenly heroes or villains in this Universe, but I still enjoyed myself.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Moral Of The Story? Don't Make The Chimp Angry--Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

This was better than I expected, and I expected it to be decent but not too good. As you by now are probably aware, this is a prequel to the Planet of The Apes movies (and I would hope you know by now that the main twist of the old Planet of The Apes movie was that it was Earth all along--get it?). As you also are probably aware this did well in theaters and has a sequel in the works and got pretty good reviews. What did I think? As I said, I was impressed. Yes, it spent a little too much time showing our hero-chimp named Cesar gathering his army of apes, and perhaps the love-interest James Franco develops seems to serve little-to-no point other than giving him someone else to give exposition to, but those are minor flaws compared to what the movie gets right.

What does the movie get right? Well, it pays homage to the whole idea of the astronauts who got lost (the very ones who come to Earth in the future movies, clever), the special effects are amazing, the movie subtly sets up how the humans could end up being a minority to apes without hitting us over the head with that plot point leaving it as something for sequels, and boy are those action scenes of the apes causing mayhem in the city and at the Golden Gate Bridge spectacular.

This was an entertaining movie. It had a bit of a morality lesson about how we treat animals but wasn't too preachy, it had action, moments of reflection, and of course apes rising (so it delivers on what the movie title promises). I'd recommend seeing it regardless of if you've seen the old Planet of The Apes movies, and even if that one recent remake of the movies left a horrible taste in your mouth and has you fearful of this. Don't worry, this is actually good.
4 out of 5 stars.

Now For Something Completely Different--Our Love Is Real

I have read a really weird comic. It's about a world where there are people who have relationships with minerals--like stones and gems--through auras, people who are into vegetables, and zoosexuals, like our protagonist who has a dog at home he counts as his lover. In this world none of this is kept secret but is instead out in the open and accepted (except for vegisexuals who are protesting for their rights, it would seem), and basically there are of course some plot developments that make us the reader question what love is and such. For a comic about such a controversial idea it is never really that gross or sexual, but even the idea of these sort of sexual acts is probably enough to make some people really upset by the existence of this comic.
It was self-published but sold like gangbusters multiple times until Image comics picked it up and helped publish it. It's an interesting read and the art is good, plus as I said it isn't especially dirty, just odd. Still, I found the way a romance in the story developed to be a bit too forced--which I guess is understandable as you only have so many pages--but I can't excuse the weak ending. At least I found it pretty weak. Still, it was an intriguing comic with a unique and very strange idea that worked pretty well until the subpar close, so I suppose I could say I enjoyed it a pretty good amount. I picked up the first and second issue of a new mini-series by the writer, Sam Humphries, so I wonder what it will hold.
3 out of 5 stars.

An Old Evening
That's the day's business, as they apparently say--and if they don't say it, so what? You have no proof otherwise. In all seriousness, "Flashpoint," was a pretty good read, "Rise of The Planet Of The Apes," was quite enjoyable, and, "Our Love Is Real," just has a certain strange charm about it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Flashback Friday--Hip Flask: Concrete Jungle

Flashback Friday--Hip Flask: Concrete Jungle

It's got some of the best art ever courtesy of Ladronn, clever writing from Richard Starkings and Joe Casey, and an intriguing plot all about time. As people know, the Elephantmen series is pretty snazzy, but set in a past with this being in the future. Everything in that series is leading up to this. It's funny then, that this comic came out before those issues which are still coming along quite wonderfully. It's not as funny we are still waiting for the new issue of this series as Ladronn makes beautiful art but does it so, so, soooooooo slowly. Seriously, the next issue of this series is a good two years or so at least late, maybe? Oh well, if its this gorgeous I don't mind waiting.

The plot is basically a mystery about time-travel, with some murder, the dark history of the Elephantmen, and much more. It's a really good time and just so incredibly good-looking. In fact, without the art I may not like it as much. It would still be good, but not be as beloved by me as it is. As it stands, this is just plain, "the bomb," as the youth say. Do kids still say that? God, I'm getting old.
5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Rant-Reviews--Avenger Annual, Young Avengers Whine, War Machine's Book Dies A Painful Death, I Cry Myself To Sleep

Just Three Books getting the ol' ranting treatment today. 2 of them involve the Avengers in some form but only one is really fun, and another of them-thar books is about James Rhodes suffering a terrible death--not in the comic, but in a publishing sense as his book grinds to a halt suddenly as Marvel decided to kill it painfully. Good times all around.

The Avengers Annual #1 (for 2012, I suppose)
Hm, I didn't expect to enjoy this. Simon Williams has been written so woefully, horrendously, miserably, and out-of-character by Brian Michael Bendis in the Avenger's books and the other "New Avengers Annual" leading up to this. The thing is, when Wonder Man speaks this time, he makes some good points and the Avengers don't really have an argument against him. He says the Avengers has done some good things but really have just caused a ton of harm--Bendis tries to make Simon Wiliams look crazy while doing this, but really the man of wonder is right.

All the other Avengers can do is ask if Williams is under some form of mind control and try to attack him, which he very well points out they are going to do. Bendis in the process of trying to make the Avengers look good actually proves Simon William's point. They kind of just come off as big bullies--even if our "antagonist" and his friends caused some damage. Williams even says to his best friend, Beast, when he's locked up at the end that he loves Beast (still, after all this!) and hopes when Beast realizes the facts he brings this whole "Avengers" thing down.

It's almost as if someone set out to make a movie mocking something and instead made something that was a really good version of it--see "Robocop and violence in movies". Like if Bendis tried to make fun of a horror movies but whipped up the best horror movie ever. He tries to make the Avengers look good and Williams look crazy, but in fact...Williams just looks right, even if his team of friends is a little wonky. This takes place before Fear Itself #1 even happens though, however, so really none of it matters at all. Sigh.
4 out of 5 stars

Avengers: The Children's Crusade #8
Wow, in this comic we get teens whining, and Doctor Doom carrying on about how wonderful he is before of course everything goes wrong and it turns out he actually isn't a kind-hearted as he would have you believe. And oh...oh there a hint in there about a huge continuity ret-con where the Scarlet Witch isn't responsible for the whole, "No More Mutants," thing but instead was somehow controlled by Doctor Doom into doing it? That better not be what I think is being hinted at, or else I will spit. Seriously, I will purse my lips and shoot out saliva in the middle of wherever I am when/if this suspicion is confirmed. Be it a cafe, day-care, funeral home, or whatever else.

At least the art looks good even if this is just constant whining. I swear, if I wanted this much whining I would go to the aforementioned day-care--which would be odd because I don't have any kids. Well, I mean there is that hybrid human-cheetah I created in a lab one night, but the government came and took it, saying something about, "Crimes against nature." Yet another sigh.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

Iron Man 2.0 #12
Nick Spencer came to Marvel with a gleam in his eye. He had an exclusivity contract and all these ideas. Iron Man 2.0 started so strongly but then Marvel told him he had to tie it in to Fear Itself for no apparent reason and for a good number of issues the complicated plot Nick Spencer was creating became all but derailed.

Nick Spencer was writing a comic about War Machine, but it was called Iron Man 2.0 and sales still weren't going strong, but he kept the intriguing plot churning along once the terrible Fear Itself bits ended and he could make something of quality again. Then Marvel brought the axe down on his baby, killing it with issue #12. Those last few issues were clearly rushed as the art would shift without warning in a style clash that made the eyes' of readers bleed. Plus, the story didn't get a strong conclusion really after those 12 (and a .1) issues of build-up, not counting the Fear Itself side-tracking bit. No, the comic just sort of abruptly ended.

This is a bad comic, I feel let down after all the development to have things just peter out so weakly like this, but I actually kind of know it isn't really Nick Spencer's fault. Marvel made him do the tie-in, I'm all but sure, and they killed this series on him. I see hints of what could have been a great ending but instead we're stuck with this. It's like the difference between the picture you see on the box of your new toy and what's actually inside that box--the world of difference. Nick Spencer wanted to deliver what was on that box, but he wasn't able to, he just gave us the disappointing junk that falls out once you rip open the packaging.

Another victim of this is the character of James Rhodes, War Machine. Yet again another interesting character will be relegated to the background. Also, considering how few comics have protagonists that are of color there is of course all the people on the internet asking, "Did the comic not last because he was black?" There is that argument that maybe people don't want to read about black characters, and I don't buy that. I think people want to read about interesting characters and if you have an interesting character that is black you might just have some success. I really blame the Fear Itself tie-in causing the comic to lose the momentum it had going.

Who knows what other fun stories we could have had, instead we are left with this weak ending of a comic. For what it's worth, Nick Spencer, I forgive you for this. As I said, I don't really blame you. Plus, if you keep making T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and keep it awesome I'll let almost anything slide. And one last sigh.
1.5 out of 5 stars.

We went from good, to okay, to just plain sad. You never know what's gonna happen when it's comic-reviewing time.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Two Pre-Relaunch DC Comics, Decent-Enough Deadpool, And A Horribly Twisted Mini-Series

It Begins
I read two DC comics that came out before the re-launch and may very well no longer be in continuity even though they were pretty snazzy, I somewhat enjoyed, "Deadpool Corps Volume 2," and I caught up with David Lapham's, "Caligula," which is quite disturbing but a bit fascinating in how grotesque it is.

Good Story, Great Art

Batman and Robin #26 AND Jonah Hex #69
These two comics both told interesting stories, but it was their art that sold it. Batman and Robin presents a tale of the Louvre being taken over by super-criminals and all kind of mayhem breaking loose because of it. Jonah Hex #69 is a simple tale of Hex confronting his father after many years and watching him die--and is illustrated by the sublime Jeff Lemire.

Both tales are somewhat psychological in a sense, talking about death and nothingness, but in one the main character's are fighting it and in another our "hero" is waiting for it to come to another character he despises, i.e. Hex's father. While one is highly surreal the other is extremely grounded in reality. Also, one is full of action and movement, the other is very still and full of talk--with only the aftermath of action (a gun battle) shown, the fight itself isn't even seen by the reader. Both tales are also "done-in-one" stories with Batman and Robin #26 being the last before the re-launch, and Jonah Hex #69 having a #70 after it before coming back as, "All-Star Western." These stories are in some way opposites, but in others alike. Plus, as I said, they both look very pretty.
I enjoyed both tales pretty equally, but for the different reasons I outlined above, and don't regret buying them regardless of how much they do or don't "count" anymore in continuity now. They were good reads, and I highly enjoyed the art.
4 out of 5 stars (for both).

In With A Joke, Out With A Whimper

Deadpool Corps Volume 2: You Say You Want A Revolution
Poor Rob Liefeld. So many people hate him and say terrible things about him, but he continues to be one of the nicest guys in comics (as I discussed in a past post). I generally don't care for his work, but there are specific situations I like seeing him drawing things. One of these few cases is when Deadpool is involved. Therefore, we have the 2nd and final volume of the Deadpool Corps and Rob Liefeld illustrates the 7th-9th issue with someone who can do art a lot like him doing the rest--and I'm satisfied because this is how I like Liefeld.
Victor Gischler writes the story, and he does a decent Deadpool having written the character in other mini-series, but the gags can drag for sure (They named the ship the Bea Arthur and by issue 12 that gag is worn so thin you want to scream). Also, the annoying thing with this volume is that almost the whole thing is told in Flashback--which is totally unnecessary as the story could have just been done straightforward but instead Gischler has us jump around a bit to make things extra confusing. This was a rare case where the story hurt Liefeld's art and not the other way around.

This was decent enough, being funny at times, clever at other moments, and looking good (for a Deadpool tale) but it just could have been quite better I would have thought. Things that I thought would turn out to be plot twists were just actually as stated, and the actual plot twists were weak. Plus, while we're on the subject of weak that ending that kills the series is so rushed and flimsy its just depressing. Still, I had some fun, so I won't hate too much.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

Now That's Just Nasty--Caligula #3-5
This picture of a statue of Caligula will be shown in lieu of the comic for sensitive blog-readers
I haven't read a series this violent, sexual, and a mixture of the both....well, since I read another comic by the author of this series (that other comic was Crossed: Family Values). David Lapham has a sick mind. If you want a comic that doesn't push boundaries so much as cross them with wild abandon, then this is for you. This comic essentially takes an interesting supernatural spin on the famous mad-emperor Caligula who plunged Rome into more raunchiness and death than you could imagine.

Told from the point of view of a man whose family was murdered due to Caligula, this tale is just crazy but also fascinating in its portrait of a man who is a ruler but is also quite clearly utterly devoid of humanity--instead just being a depraved monster. Trust me when I tell you this comic is not for those with weak sensibilities, but if you have an interest in ancient history with a supernatural twist, or like horror stories, you might want to check this out. I just wonder how it will conclude (other than what history tells us)
3.5 out of 5 stars.

It Ends
There we go, some pre-re-boot DC comics that were pretty snazzy, some Deadpool material that passes muster in the sense of at least being decent, and a really twisted Caligula comic. How's that for an interesting assortment of comics?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Batman And Black Mirrors, Johnny Boo, and Modern Warfare 3 Goes "Boom"

I Can See Clearly Now The Rain Is Gone
Today we shall discuss a great collection of Scott Snyder's run on Detective Comics with Jock and Francesco Francavailla as artists that was collected as, "Batman: the Black Mirror." We will also discuss a fun children's book by intriguing author James Kochalka titled Johnny Boo: Twinkle Power. Lastly, the game, "Modern Warfare 3," will be looked at and reviewed even though by now it has sold a ba-jillion copies and can't sell much more without people buying a second copy to play. Let's make this weasel go pop!

The Last Hurrah Of Dick Grayson As Batman, And What A Hurrah Indeed--Batman: The Black Mirror

The title is a bit of a misnomer, as this actually is a collection of the late/now re-launched Detective Comics. this is a heavy book collecting issues #871-881, and do keep in mind some of the material started as back-up strips back before DC cut those out of their comics. The intriguing thing is that all the story-lines end up coming together. From the seemingly unrelated tale of Jim Gordon's son coming back to Gotham that starts out as said back-up strip to Batman investigating a new mob-boss or two. Scott Snyder expertly works it out so things have a bit of a synergy and feed into one another. Plus, he's got two killer artists illustrating various bits to make sure things go well.
Whether it is Jock providing art or Francisco Francavilla, things look beautiful. Both can do ominous and haunting, and both can do frenetic action scenes quite well too. Between a well-told story and some masterful art this is a quality package. The only downside is it seems the whole mystery of if James Gordon is a psycho killer or just a misunderstood person who has reformed gets a rushed conclusion--probably as DC told Snyder with the re-launch coming he had to wrap things up. Still, before we find out what the answer is, you find a fair bit of evidence pointing either way, and boy is James Gordon just plain creepy.

This was a great yarn, and it wasn't completely removed from continuity because as far as I know Dick Grayson still acknowledges how he was Batman for a time (so if you're one of those "it has to count" people you can maybe read this and be okay). Regardless of where this stands in the new DC Universe, it is a great story with some solid art, so you ought to give it read and not let the large size and slightly larger price tag to go with it scare you away--or you could wait for the trade paperback if you're having some funds issues. Lord knows I need to spend my money better and go out to eat less.
4.5 out of 5 stars

The Ghost With The....What Was It Again?--Johnny Boo: Twinkle Power

Johnny Boo is a fun little ghost. He has a some friends and they have a pretty good time in this book illustrated by comic artist Jame Kochalka. Kochalka has done a variety of comic work, ranging from kid-friendly stuff to things that surely aren't (he had a comic called, "Superfuckers"). No matter what he's done though, he always has an adorable art style. Johnny Boo is a cute book that both the grown folk and kids should be able to enjoy as it has good humor, good art, and Kochalka's fun style.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

A Fitting End To The Trilogy--Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

The first, "Modern Warfare," had some decent action scenes but the plot was actually kind of neat and fun. the second had some incredible scenes but the plot sort of went off-the-rails at certain points and just confused the hell out of me. Therefore, I've got some good news in that, "Modern Warfare 3," packs in amazing set pieces and the plot actually has some semblance of coherence even if it is pretty far-fetched with the whole Russia-invading-the-US thing that carries over for the 2nd game.

I won't spoil all the awesome things that happen, as I myself purposely went out of my way to not read press that would tell me some of the cool things you got to do. Seriously though, you must be having a hard time avoiding spoilers, as this game has some incredible moments of action. True, unlike open-world games where you can make your own  neat moment, everything here is scripted to a "T" but its okay because you really are sort of in your own interactive movie.
The action is good, the characters you've grown to care about somewhat continue to impress and have their own forms of plot resolution--be it happy for some and not as much for others, and lots of things explode gloriously. It's Modern Warfare 3 and its a grand time. I should note I didn't bother with the multi-player because I have Battlefield 3 for my multi-player hi-jinks (I need vehicles to be happy), but for those of you who love the multi-player aspect you'll be even more pleased with this game, I imagine. Based on single-player alone, however, I had a pretty great time. The thing is though, once its over, you are done. You can replay the game, but you know all the action that will occur now, so your 8-hour action movie is essentially pointless if you just wanted the single-player. Hence, you might want to just rent this and beat it.
4 out of 5 stars (based on single-player alone)

I'm Having More Trouble Seeing In The Storm Now
A really great comic, a fun children's book, and a game that was a lot of fun. Seems things aren't always so bad, eh? Then again, this is a world where it now costs $10.50 at some movie theaters for an evening ticket, so I guess not all is right with the universe. Seriously, 10 bucks to sit in your supposedly, "stadium seating" and then be told I...I mean you...have to pay a ton more for water, soda, or popcorn? No wonder I' rather spend the cash on above items most of the time unless the movie is really good.