Friday, December 30, 2011

Flashback Friday: PunisherMax Volumes 1 and 2 OR The Fall of Frank Castle

Flashback Friday: Maybe Frank Castle Just Needs A Hug--PunisherMax "Kingpin" and "Bullseye"

Frank Castle is not a happy man. Nor is he a peaceful one. This series builds upon the superb Garth Ennis run of the Punisher in the Max Universe but the comic gets a new title and a new creative team in the form of Jason Aaron and Steven Dillon (a long-time Ennis collaborator, interestingly enough). What Jason Aaron does is bring in ideas from the "normal" Marvel Universe like the Kingpin Wilson Fisk or the crazy-talented but also crazy-insane Bullseye and Aaron makes them grounded in the reality of this much more, "real" world. You would think it'd fail considering how hard Ennis worked to NOT do this during his run on the Punisher (with maybe the exception of having Nick Fury involved), but this actually turns out pretty well.
This comic seems to not really be split into arcs so much as telling one really long story that will be ending soon as the series wraps up (Marvel recently announced it was ending). Therefore, I can review the first two trades as just one entity as they are pieces of a story. What is that story? I'd argue that from what I've read and because I know what comes next (spoiler: the Punisher goes to prison) that this comic is basically tracing the downfall of Frank Castle both physically and emotionally. Notice how I said, "Frank Castle," and not, "The Punisher." The reason for that is that Frank thinks of the Punisher as some unstoppable force, but over these two trades we see he isn't just the Punisher, he is a human being with weaknesses. In the first trade he is decimated physically and by the end of the second Frank has lost some of the things that made him the Punisher--he's killed a cop (even if he was dirty) and something is said that clearly makes him question if this whole vendetta is really being done for his murdered wife and kids or if it's something else, something darker.

Yes, the question is if Frank Castle had the Punisher born that day in the park when his family was murdered in front of his eyes, or if as the assassin Bullseye is seeming to figure out, the Punisher has been there in Frank just waiting for an excuse to come out. Whatever the case, by the end of these trades it's clear our main character has some soul-searching to do.
I make this comic sound very serious, and it is at times, but there are also moments of really dark and absurd humor, and boy is this thing violent. There is a reason this is on the, "Max" label. Overall it is a pretty interesting story, and worth giving a look.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rant-Reviews--Some Month's-Old Comics, And Some New Ones. Quality Varied.

Flip the Switch
Let's talk about comics--some old, some newer, none quite terrible, but some really good. Other ones are just okay. I'll break out the peanut butter and bread so we can enjoy sandwiches whilst reading/writing the reviews. What? You're allergic? Sucks to be you, because I want my chunky peanut-butter.

Mystery Men #5
Yes, this came out forever ago, and yes the last two issues seemed a bit rushed and it still wasn't quite clear why this had to tie in with the main Marvel continuity as the company made a big deal about--"Hey, this takes place before the normal heroes you know of existed and it's in continuity for you 'it has to count' nerds!"--but damn-it, all those complaints aside that should hurt this I still really enjoyed this series. It's like you are dating some girl and you know she's got some serious flaws, but you can't help but be enamored with her. Sure, she's got some human bodies in the basement, but she makes such a delicious mac-and-cheese! This comic may have the flaws, but it's still a really enjoyable pulp adventure with interesting characters that's just plain fun.

David Liss wrote up a good tale even if he had the whole, "It's in continuity, read it!" cloud hanging over his head that Marvel made a big deal of, even if at the end of the day it didn't matter if this comic took place in the Marvel Universe or a some other reality like this one where it seems no matter how many times you say you don't want mustard or mayo on your sandwich you always have to send it back. I don't want mayo, it makes me gag! This comic didn't activate that reflex though, and I'm pretty sure it's out in trade now so you ought to pick it up.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Captain Swing And The Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island #4
Wow. It took forever for the fourth issue of this to come out and then once it did they couldn't pump out the trade fast enough. Then again this was Warren Ellis writing this, and even though he is a great writer, it seems when he is doing something for the Avatar comics line you never know when or if the project will be completed (this applies to other comic-lines and Ellis too, but it is especially bad with he and Avatar). How was the final issue though? Well, it was...decent?

I'm sorry, but it just took so long for everything to come out I had trouble remembering certain things, but I did remember this started out a lot more fun than it ended. If I may return to the theme of relationships, it was like one that starts out really great but by the end just sort of fizzles out--mainly because you realize you no longer have enough money to pay her fee. What? That isn't a relationship, that's prostitution? Well you and I just have different views, my friend. Seriously though, this was passable but not that amazing. It looked nice though.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

Captain Atom 100 Page Special
Well, that was weird. I like Captain Atom, he is a cool character. I was one of the few people who enjoyed that comic which took him to the Wildstorm Universe back when it was actually its own Universe. I mean I absolutely love that series for some odd reason. Then he became some bad guy named Monarch in a terrible DC comic event that counted down to an interesting but weird one by Grant Morrison (Countdown to Final Crisis and Final Crisis, respectively). And then...who knows what happened. Hell, this comic isn't sure. Basically it just kind of goes, "Yeah, some weird stuff happened, but now Captain Atom wants to get over it, so let's put tell a cool tale of him in another dimension that is all sword-and-sorcery style."

Originally these were back-up strips, but this collects them into a...well, a 100 page special. James Robinson and Greg Rucka both wrote them, and its pretty good, even though that terrible temporary team from the "Justice" mini-series Robinson did that was more painful than having a Piranha biting your nether regions while listening to any Celine Dion album. This though, this was pretty decent even if it was a bit busy giving us a tour of the DC Universe at times, or trying to awkwardly explain away Captain Atom's last few years of confusing continuity (which were wiped out in the re-launch that happened anyways). Yeah, this was good.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

The Cape #1 & #2
First off, this has nothing to do with the apparently atrocious NBC mini-series. No, this is a mini-series related to the one-shot comic based off a short story by Joe Hill of Locke and Key comic fame (along with various books and such). This builds off of that one shot with a story of a man who has powers and does what a lot of people probably would if they suddenly gained some--become quite evil. It's a decent yarn but the main character is just so horrible and doesn't seem to have too much of a reason to be. Everyone was supportive of him, he just turned out to be nightmarish. I guess what he says in issue #2 sums it up. The fact he isn't good at anything but he is good at this, with "this" meaning being a monster. It's fine for what it is, but I like my bad-guys to be a bit like someone you can relate to and not just total sociopaths. The new issue comes out this 28th I believe. I'll be reading it, but more-so out of curiousness. 
2.5 out of 5 stars.

Uncanny X-Force #18
Have you ever read something just totally awesome that you and everyone else loved, but in a weird twist the part some people enjoyed most actually rubbed you the wrong way? Yeah, that happened with this comic. Not to spoil it, but there is this one waaayyyy too sweet moment that occurs that just had me rolling my eyes. However, that is overpowered by the rest of this issue which is just sheer amounts of incredible. Whether it is being serious, funny, full of action, or introducing that last twist that I didn't predict after the ones that I did see coming, this is a quality good time. It took forever for the story to get here in its 9 or so parts, but boy if it wasn't a gas.
5 out of 5 stars.

Shut The Power Down
There wasn't anything too horrible, just some stuff that was a bit mediocre to go with readings that were quite delightful. The moral of the story is that comics aren't always terrible--though I've clearly run into plenty of those if you look through the blog at all.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Today is Christmas, so Merry Christmas! We are also currently in the midst of Hanukkah--which I'm celebrating, so Happy Hanukkah too! Plus, of course tomorrow is the start of Kwanzaa, so a Joyous Kwanzaa to all who celebrate that holiday also! May everyone have a great holiday season and get what they wanted instead of socks. Unless of course they wanted socks, then I hope you receive tons of them.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Action Movie, A Super-Hero Comic, a Humor Book of True Facts. I Consumed These.

Starting Things Up
I saw the new Mission Impossible, and speaking of impossible missions, someone was able to wrap up the Supreme Power comic that J. Michael Straczynski started and then quit awhile ago before Howard Chaykin tried his hardest to kill it. Lastly, I've read a pretty entertaining book by the editors of Cracked, website (yeah, its just a website now, I checked) full of alarmingly true facts that also make you laugh, possibly even guffaw. Let's get down to it, okay?

Enjoyable, With Lots of Pretty Special Effects.
I saw the newest Mission Impossible Movie, which instead of being called, "Mission Impossible 4," is called, "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol," because if they had a "Four" in the title people would probably have thought, "Eh, I prefer trilogies." Luckily, they didn't do that, and with just as much luck this movie continues the trend that only the MI movies and Lord Of the Rings seem to pull off where they actually get better with each new one.

I have to admit, I really don't care for Tom Cruise in lots of movies. However, the Mission Impossible flicks are right where I enjoy him being. It just makes sense, so when I see his face pop up in those, I'm cool with it. Tom Cruise in a movie about Germans who try to stop Nazi Germans even though everyone inexplicably talks with American or British accents? No thanks. Tom Cruise in a movie about crazy spy stuff full of explosions and chases? I'm in.

Not to spoil too much, but as the previews for the movie have made clear, Tom Cruise and his team have been framed as terrorists and now have to prove that they aren't. They also have to stop a terrorist-type threat that never makes much sense but the movie tries to write that off by just saying the guy behind it is crazy. Well played, Mission Impossible, well played. In fact, the most glaringly obvious plot issues usually get pointed out by the movie itself in an almost clever bit of meta-commentary on action movies that bumps this up a tiny bit past the usual popcorn fare.
Plus, do you want action? Oh, because there is plenty of action. Skyscrapers are climbed, people are chased, guns are shot, and all kinds of cool explosions happen. The movie also tries to keep you on your toes by throwing in twists or action when you don't expect it--along with the usual times that you do. To the films's credit, there were a few bits that I did not see coming, even if there were plenty I did.
This was a genuinely fun film and one I would recommend to fans of the Mission Impossible series, action, or just good times. Kick back, relax, and watch Tom Cruise doing what he does best--not talking too much, but instead doing his own stunts and letting that ever-catchy Mission Impossible theme let us know we're in for a great time.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

That Was Satisfying Enough--Supreme Power (2011 mini-series Now Titled "Gods and Soldiers")
There was a great series called, "Supreme Power," that J. Michael Straczynski started writing. However, like most things he does, he left it in the middle. Well, sort of. First it became an all-ages-ish title for no good reason and then he left it. So the series gained all these extra characters under writer Howard Chaykin who made it one of the worst comics ever. He seriously took the series out back, hit it over the head with a shovel, and buried it in the backyard. However, Marvel called in pretty-skilled writer Kyle Higgins to come and dig up the body and try and do something, anything with it. What we have is a series that drops almost all of what Chaykin did except some big plot beats, and draws primarily from Straczynski's earlier parts of the run--and that's just a-okay with me. 

Sure, some characters who should have maybe shown up like Nighthawk don't at all, but this thing was just given four issues! You can tell Higgins wanted it to be longer, it starts to feel rushed towards the end, but still works. Why? Because it actually tries to provide a somewhat satisfying conclusion to the story Stracznski started so long ago. It has action, it is thoughtful, and it is in fact a Marvel Max title as it should be. That means we can have the characters swearing if we want and such--but also the title can be more adult in the sense it deals with some serious subjects. This was good. Hopefully more good stuff could be coming along in this universe? Just don't let Chaykin near it. That man is good with some things, but God did he nearly destroy this.
4 out of 5 stars.

I Laughed And Learned--You Might Be A Zombie And Other Bad News
There was a humor magazine called Cracked. It seems they stopped publishing it. There is still a Cracked website however, and they make some fun and crazy lists. This book, You Might Be A Zombie and Other Bad News,contains some of those. It is all supposedly true and fact-checked. From what I already knew and double-checked it seems this book is quite accurate with its lists. From ones about movies based on true stories that aren't factual at all, to the most dangerous animals people think are cute (You should fear hippos and if you see a platypus you need to run) it's a fun time.

I laughed occasionally, learned some new things, and would recommend perhaps flipping through this at your local bookstore the next time you peruse it. If you find it as funny or informative as I did, why not purchase it? You don't want to be one of those people who read the whole book at the bookstore and then put it back. Those people are dicks.
4 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Two "Important" Marvel Books I Read Recently.

One Was Just Previews For Other Comics, One Was Straight-Up Crazy. So...Yeah.

That was interesting. I read Marvel Point One and Fantastic Four #600 and have some thoughts. Yes, they came out a bit ago but I didn't get around to talking about them one here until now and still want to. Sorry for the delay, I baked you these cookies as an apology, but be warned of the five I made, two have poison.

Read This Then Buy The Main Comic--Or Else We Will Cry
You're still conscious, so that must mean you picked one of the "good" cookies. Speaking of something where you get a sampling of options and some of them are really terrible and could kill you, Marvel Point One. You see what I did there? Seriously though, this comic was basically an excuse to show previews for future comics that will coming using a framing device in the form of everyone's favorite voyeur, The Watcher.

It seems some people have broken into his little palace and are absorbing information, which we get to see. Hence, ads--excuse me--stories, to promote a comic set the the Age of Apocalypse Universe, that weird Ultron event Brian Michael Bendis has been hinting at occasionally off and on for awhile, and so forth. The story that actually stands the best on its own is probably the most blatant, "Read the main comic to see what happens next," type-tale, but its so good I don't mind. It's a Doctor Strange yarn and its done so well--which seems hard for most writers (besides Brian K Vaughn when he did that excellent mini-series)--that it's all good. Other stories happen, but they aren't too great, involving new characters whose intro-story doesn't make me care about them at all, Scarlet Spider being a huge dick even though I used to like the character of Kaine (google it, but not the video-game vampire one), and Nova apparently says, "Epic Fail" when planets explode behind him...okay?

 Yeah, it was okay, but was really just snippets of stories, or short vignettes that scream, "Buy the main comic, pleaseeee!" and Marvel charged me how much for this--even if some stores sold it at half-price because it was double-shipped? Really, how much? I don't remember. $5.99? God damn that's absurd for something they could give away for free considering its all one big advertisement like those giveaway "sketchbooks" for their event comics. Ugh.
Everyone Loves A Love Story--But Prefers One About The World Ending
You know what I had a ton of trouble understanding because I quit reading the series awhile ago, but still enjoyed a fair amount? I would hope you know because I only mention two comics in the post's title and I just discussed one. For those who need a refresher, it's the 600th issue of The Fantastic Four.

I don't want to spoil it--even though everyone else has. But it's pretty intense with all these plots coming together and twists and a huge reveal that is explained in the second story. Oh, and some other cool tales occur too. There isn't a lot of Doctor Doom in here sadly, and I loves me some Doom, but that's cool.
Sky-writing with fire only leads to trouble.
You know, when I think about it, that Marvel mini-series, "Fear Itself" spent so many issues trying to convince us of some huge threat and that the world was in danger, etc. etc. This issue of Fantastic Four makes you feel the world is in actual danger within a few opening pages, and carries a sense of scope and gravitas that a whole 28 issues of Fear Itself (were there that many? I quit it because I got sick of the damn thing) couldn't summon at all. Jonathan Hickman's writing can be really good to me, or rub me the wrong way something fierce (hence my quitting Fantastic Four awhile ago), but in this thing he is firing on all cylinders.

As I said though, I haven't been reading this thing, so I was kind of lost on some of the finer plot details....okay, most if not all of it. Certain characters were hanging with other ones for reasons I did not know, people were spouting stuff that sounded cool but was over my head...basically I felt like most people do who don't read comics when they try and pick one up. I still enjoyed the heck out of this though, which is speaking to its quality. You know what? Fuck it, I'm going to spoil the big reveal:
That's right, Johnny Storm is back! Plus, he has a ton of power now, putting the big-baddie from the Negative Zone on his knees before the might that is the Human Torch. Pretty hardcore, eh? That is just so killer, and another instance of what I call, "awesomesauce," in this comic. Plus it only cost me...$7.99? Dear God, $6.99 wouldn't have been too bad for this, but that is just a bit much. Sigh.

Suck Down These High Prices. Seriously, You'll Gasp For Air
We had two comics, both absurdly priced. One was not really worth it, the You see, I can't bring myself to say Fantastic Four #600 was worth it because just a cent under eight bucks is so crazy. I guess if you don't mind the steepness you should pick up everyone's favorite super-family trying to save the world. Skip the Point One though, you ain't missing much at all.
Scores Before Taking Into Crazy Cost:
Marvel Point One: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Fantastic Four #600: 5 out of 5 stars

Scores After Taking Into Account The Cost:
Marvel Point One: 1.5 out of 5 stars (Just not worth the price)
Fantastic Four #600: 4.5 out of 5 stars (Still too high, but more worth it).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rant-Reviews--4 of the few-ish Marvel books I read and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents

Your Comics Suck, But I Read Them
I said I'd get to posting, and now its time for some rant-reviews. I know I tag any post with a review with rant-reviews, but these that are just nothing but reviews are special--they are really sarcastic and silly. Let's proceed?

Magneto: Not A Hero #1 
The second issue of this comes out tomorrow, and I would have been more excited after the big reveal at the end of the first issue, were it not for the fact that Marvel spoiled that surprise in the solicitation for the third issue of this series! I mean really, what the fuck? Marvel pulled the same move I did when I came out of a screening of the movie Contagion and the theater I was at only has one actual theater because its kind of a bar and lounge with one screen. Therefore, a line forms for the next showing as tickets go fast because people like to see movies at the bar and lounge theater.

So, I leave Contagion and tell everyone, "It was a pig, it was a motherfucking pig all along, but they find a cure!" and 5 minutes later security is ushering me out of the building--not because I was being thrown out, but because I had to be protected from the violent crowd that just had a plot point of the movie ruined for them. You see, people still went and saw the movie, and enjoyed it, but had an important thing spoiled for them by a asshole (me/Marvel) which kind of tempered some of the shock. It was still a cool comic though, and I'm sure they felt the same about Contagion. I wouldn't know, the theater banned me. By the way, that story is more true and less of a joke than I'd care to admit.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Secret Avengers #19
Warren Ellis continues to show that even though he insults superhero comics, he can write damn good ones, and also has been proving that you can do done-in-one-issue stories. You hear that, Uncanny X-Force? With your 9-parts and more, "Dark Angel" saga that while good has been going forever? You can tell a quality tale within just a single issue of a comic, and have it actually be satisfying! Plus my favorite, Moon Knight is in this and I love him to an unhealthy degree for someone to love a fictional character. I mean goddamn, this was just spectacular and looked pretty darn good too. I actually don't mind the $3.99 this cost, which is equal to Marvel kicking me really hard in the junk and laughing about it. Yeah, there's a reason I've switched to a mostly DC, but if Marvel actually consistently had stuff like this and made it easy to find instead of part of a market flooded with 50 other Avengers books maybe the world would be a better place. You know, the kind of place where Republican Presidential debates aren't more painful to sit through than a dental appointment to with teeth drilled without any Novocaine.
5 out of 5 stars.

Red Skull: Incarnate #5
We all know this guy--the young Johann--is gonna become one of the worst Nazis ever--The Red Skull--and if I've learned anything from movies, its pretty hard if not impossible to make Nazis seem like sympathetic characters. Therefore, writer Greg Pak had his work cut out for him in the process of making this sort-of-contrast to his other comic series, "Magneto: Testament." I guess I should give Pak credit in that early on our "hero" (said with much sarcasm) seems decent enough and slowly gets worse and worse. Still, its a comic about a Nazi, and these days that's about as easy to find as pictures of Lindsay Lohan's hoo-ha now that she is down on her luck and posed for Playboy.

Seriously, did you see those pictures? I heard they had to Photoshop the hell out of them to make her look decent and I just felt weird looking at the images as I still think of her as that kid from the remake of , "The Parent Trap," who had all that potential and flushed it down the toilet to become what she is today--a dime-a-dozen wreck. You know what the problem is with dime-a-dozen wrecks? No matter how interesting they were at first they are still just wrecks now and there are a ton of those. This is a comic about a Nazi, and no matter how interesting Pak makes him in the end there are still all those Nazi comics too. I just compared Lindsay Lohan to comics about Nazis. I am a mad scientist.
3 out of 5 stars (because the effort is there).

Wolverine And The X-Men #2
If you are a fan of Iceman--like, you get a boner anytime you see him appear in comics--then this issue must have made you just jizz/cream all over yourself uncontrollably. I mean seriously, every few years comics talk about how Iceman has all this potential he just has to tap into, and this is one of those issues where he does it and you fans out there have multiple orgasms to it because its so extreme and crazy. Plus those of you who have Iceman-Kitty Pyrde fan-fiction can quit finger-banging/jerking to your imagination as Marvel has made a dream come true with him totally sticking that icy tongue down her throat. Also, this issue has Frankenstein monsters, plural. And it is drawn by Bachalo. How can a person not love this? When writer Jason Aaron has his A-game going quality shit like this just seeps out of his pores. Sadly, sometimes we get miserable junk, but right now everyone should be pleased, or coming if they are Iceman fans. Wow, this review was really lewd.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1
When DC did the big re-launch I was worried I would lose this book. Hell, when Nick Spencer went to work exclusively for Marvel we should have lost this book. However, despite the world itself trying to kill this great series it continues to come out and that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy (and that's not the booze). Seriously, Spencer has had a tough time at Marvel I would say. Iron Man 2.0 was cancelled, his gig on Secret Avengers got terrible reviews, the Doctor Doom mini-series was strangled in the crib--never coming out with even the first issue, and every single day Marvel's Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso has to be given a sponge bath, and Spencer was the poor guy who got task while Bendis meanwhile gets to play videogames with Breevort (I'm making that last thing up, maybe). Really, Spencer has been having it rough. That's why I'm happy he shines on this book.

The first six issue of the last T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents were amazing. The last four were pretty good but lacked some of the sheer awesomeness. This is somewhere in between and I don't mind that at all. I really enjoyed this. I hope this book keeps going past this mini-series with Spencer on-board somehow, and I hope Spencer has a better 2012 at Marvel than 2011. I mean seriously, if Axel is bathed everyday how does he get so dirty?
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Some Quick Thoughts.

Hmmm, talk about a Watchmen 2/prequel comics going around the internet? Yeah, I'll believe that when I see it. As for how I feel about one happening? I don't know, if they are done well it could be fun, but

A newly announced X-Men VS Avengers comic that puts the whole Universe at stake? Lately with Marvel I have trouble summoning excitement for any event as they seem to just be going downhill--with Fear Itself being the point where I just gave up and jumped ship mid-way through the series. I actually read more DC now I think since their re-boot, but still go for the Marvel books that I really like due to a character I love being involved (Moon Knight) or the series just being written so damn well (X-Factor).

How the fuck did Newt Gingrich jump to the lead of the Republican polls for President? I mean, his campaign was all but dead and he was a laughingstock...then this? I guess the Republican's really are willing to try anyone before sitting down and realizing it probably has to be Romney, like it or not.

Modern Warfare 3 was quite the game, look for a post that discusses that at some point, along with other random stuff probably. Frankly, I have a few posts ideas I've got half-going and need to wrap up so you all have something to read.