Saturday, July 30, 2016

The 2nd Annual, "Mini Comic-Con," Held by the Saint Louis Public Library Was Great!

Today I went to the 2nd annual, "Mini Comic-Con," held by the Saint Louis Public Library system at their location on Olive Street in downtown Saint Louis. It was the 2nd year this smaller comic-convention was held and my first time attending. True to its name, the mini-con had a smaller assortment of guests and vendors, but that didn't  mean the attendance was miniature--quite a large crowd showed up!

There were a number of comic-makers in attendance from the publisher Lion Forge (whom I've spoken with and enjoyed the works of before), to a creator and her husband I met at a previous Project Comic-Con, Lindsay Hornsby and James Hornsby, and a very nice creator with a cool art-styel, Coyote G. Bynum. I bought some comics from Ms. Hornbsy (a cute comic about princess puppies I plan to review in the future) and a fun comic about a vicious robot from comic-maker Jeff Elden.
It wasn't just comics at the con however, the 501st Legion were there promoting, "Star Wars," cosplay as well as the Hand Painted Nerd AKA Ashley Dunning, who had a variety of neat ceramic stuff. I had the pleasure of meeting with, "Game Night Gear," who are a monthly subscription box (like some of the ones I've discussed before on the blog) that send out exciting board games, "Blind-box," style where you get to be surprised every month by what you receive!

I had a fun time checking-out the 2nd annual mini-con and want to thank librarian and comic-maker Christina, "Steenz," Stewart for organizing such a stellar mini-con! I had a wonderful time attending it and look forward to many other successful future ones!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Film Friday: Reflecting on a Weirdly Deep Comment on Societal Constructions of Sexuality in the Film, "The Wedding Ringer."

There was a film that came out not too long ago called, "The Wedding Ringer," where a man named Doug (played by Josh Gad) hires Kevin Hart (Jimmy) to be his best man due to the fact he lacks any particularly good guy friends. It's a pretty dumb movie full of clichés, stereotypes, and some admittedly funny moments in between the duller bits. However, despite the film spending the majority of its time playing-up the usual stereotypes or engaging in gross-out gags it has one ingeniously progressive element that took me completely by surprise and makes the film stand-out in my mind for that reason alone. That element is the wedding-planner character of Edmundo, played by Ignacio Serricchio.

You see, whilst Doug has been planning his wedding an outrageously over-the-top wedding planner who ticks every possible box of, "Gay cliché," has been assisting him--even going so far as to put Doug in touch with Jimmy and his best-man services. At one point in the movie Doug is freaking-out about the wedding and in order to calm him down and see a lot of weddings are just pomp and circumstance Jimmy takes Doug to see someone. They arrive at the house of Edmundo, who suddenly has lost the nice outfits and, "Gay voice," instead answering the door in a dirty shirt and chugging some beer. It is revealed that, "Edmundo," is basically just a character created by Eddie Sanchez (known to his friends as, "Dirty Eddie Sanchez,") because he realized he needed to, "Flame it up," to get a job as a wedding planner. So far pretty dumb and moderately offensive, yes? Well then something ingenious happens.

Doug and Jimmy sit with Eddie in his living room while he lights up a bong and a sexy woman comes by, Doug asks, "Is that your girl?" and Eddie responds how that is actually his sister. Then a barely clothed and muscular man walks into the room and Eddie says, "That's my 'girl.'" Yes, Eddie is in fact gay, but realized that even if he happens to be gay, he doesn't fit the societal perception of a gay man who plans weddings, and therefore has to act like a flamboyant and exaggerated concept of a homosexual man instead of being his true self--an alcoholic, weed-smoking slob who also is attracted to men. This short scene in the movie is so incredibly smart and loaded with commentary about our social-coding of, "Gay," and, "Straight," as well as, "Masculine," and, "Feminine," it is astounding to see it pop-up in an otherwise mostly unremarkable movie about a loner who hires another loner to be his best man and they end up becoming friends (I would say, "Spoiler alert," but even the previews made it obvious that's what happens). Here is the clip where all is revealed about Edmundo/Eddie:

It is funny to think that a silly comedy like, "The Wedding Ringer," manages to inadvertently make such a complex statement about social perceptions and tell some good jokes in the process. The majority of the movie may be standard silly fare, but this stroke of brilliance in the film has stuck with me and I felt deserved some discussion in a, "Film Friday," post.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

I've Played a Bunch of, "Overwatch," And Shall Offer my Opinions

Blizzard Got Game(s)
Blizzard is a developer and publisher who hasn't put out nearly as many titles as some of the quote-un-quote, "Big," publishers like EA or Ubisoft, but when they do have a release it often is so amazingly well-crafted, carefully designed, and expertly tweaked that it becomes hugely popular. They were known for their amazing Real-Time-Strategy games, came to dominate the MMO-space for years thanks to, "World of Warcraft," made a MOBA that has a huge fan-following, and now have entered into the space of first-person arena shooters that feature teams fighting. Because this is Blizzard we're talking about you don't need to worry if the game is good--the question just becomes how good is it? Well, I'll tell you it's pretty damn amazing which makes the small amount of flaws all that more annoying.

When discussing team-based shooting games it is basically mandatory you mention, "Team Fortress/Team Fortress 2," because for more than a decade that series has dominated the landscape (and of course there are still hardcore fans of the various, "Quake," games and their arena-style fights but that's a pretty niche group at this point). TF and TF2 deserve discussion because their perfect balancing act of character classes made the game a well-oiled machine of perfection. No one else has been able to have such as variety of characters and classes and make it work without one choice being too overpowered and another being too weak, etc. Well, until now with, "Overwatch."

So Many People
I've played a little bit of all the characters in, "Overwatch," from when it initially launched with 21 options to the newest addition in a recent patch, Ana. All the characters vary widely, yet they amazingly can both compliment and counter each other well enough that no one character is automatically the, "Best," or, "Worst." Unlike some games with a variety of characters, you can play any single one in, "Ovewatch," because the game is not a free-to-play title. You buy it (or in my case, keep renting it from stores or the library week-after-week) and can play as anyone--plus change characters even during a match if needed. Having played everyone in, "Overwatch," I will say I am best at D.VA, whose plot involves her being a video-gamer who drives a huge mech. Before a patch that fixed-up her shield I was pretty good, but since they made her even better at deflecting damage she is now one of my go-to choices. I absolutely suck at playing as a man named Hanzo however, whose M.O. is slinking around and firing carefully-aimed arrows at enemies. I can not aim at all with him. I am also great at a healing character named Mercy however, who can barely hit enemies but can fix-up and boost her team like nobody's business--and that's exactly the thing with, "Overwatch,"--there are so many characters and fun ways to play that if you are bad at one or get tired of a particular way of gaming, you can switch it up!

Exhausted of flying high in the sky and firing rockets at people as Pharah? Turn into a huge Knight named Reinhardt and run around smacking people with your hammer. Want to be able to attack enemies but still heal your team? Play Lucio and rollerblade on walls whilst patching-up your fellow players. And it continues just like that, play a robot named Bastion who can transform into a turret and mow-down everyone, become a talking Gorilla (good ol' Winston) who can leap long distances, or if you're overwhelmed by these exotic players just play Soldier 76 who can run fast, heal himself, and has a good rate-of-fire with his gun(so basically if you're most at home with, "Call of Duty," he's your guy).
He's probably the least interesting character, but he's still a fine choice.
No one character is over-powered because there are always other characters designed to take-down the other. Are multiple people on the opposing team turning into a turret as Bastion and trying to stop everyone from advancing? Deflect the gunfire back at them as the ninja Genji, teleport behind them with Tracer, or freeze them up with Mei, to give just three examples. But hey, even if you go-up against a character who can counter one of your skills, just use another, because this game is so incredibly done that everyone can be fun to play as and against. Considering how the options and possibilities seem endless in terms of who to play, it makes it all the more apparent and depressing that the game really lacks something else--play modes.

Wait, That's It for Modes?
In, "Overwatch," there are modes where players fight over a control point(a, "King of the Hill,"-style match), where one team has to defend a number of checkpoints from the other team, and a version where you unlock a, "Payload," you escort across the map while the other team tries to stop you. That's it. Okay, there is version where you fight over a control point in a, "Best out of three," match-style, but other than that, nada. Do you want to be able to do a team deathmatch, have it be a free-for-all-fight, or simply take on a friend one-on-one? Well, sorry, because that ain't in this game, you've got those aforementioned modes to play with and against people, or if you want, on a team of people against the artificial intelligence. Compared to the absolute plethora of characters you can play as the lack of modes is a stark contrast. I mean, there even is a good variety of maps, but while the locations can be exotic, it doesn't change the fact the game only consists of fighting for control points or escorting a floating car.

The most amazing thing however is that, "Overwatch," is still so good that even with these lack of modes, you're having so much fun it actually almost feels okay that your options are so limited. Everyone is having a such a great time it is almost forgivable that game-modes are so lacking. Plus, considering how the game just added the support-sniper character Ana and plans to add more people to play as, I imagine they of course are planning to introduce other modes--they would be crazy not to do such a thing. Oh, and everyone makes fun of the, "Play of the Game," at the end of matches, but I don't mind it much so that's all I've got to say about that.

A Rollicking Good Time
I should mention that as I only almost rank/level 18 I have not been able to take part in the, "Competitive Mode," which requires I reach 25 and is unique in that people who play it move-up in virtual ranks the more they win (and you can only have one of a character in a match per team). It is basically the same as the regular game, as far as I understand it, except that people take it much more seriously because they want to have the bragging rights of being one of the top players in the world. Even if I unlock the competitive-level I'll probably stick with the regular mode, because I like the relatively relaxed and peppy nature of everyone playing. Everyone is just having fun and not super-worried about winning or losing, it is nice considering how lots of team-shooters can have people who are waaayyy too into it.

Blizzard has done it again with, "Overwatch." The, "it," in this case being making a great game and then raking in the money when everyone buys it because it is so good. The lack of modes is a startling omission in a game that otherwise feels carefully perfected, but over time I imagine that will be corrected. As it stands now though, "Overwatch," is a rollicking good time that will bring hours of enjoyment to anyone who plays it.
4.5 out of 5 stars (although with more modes it will easily achieve that extra half-star).

Note: Blizzard normally doesn't release games on consoles but did in fact do so for, "Overwatch," so I've been playing it on my Playstation 4.

Monday, July 25, 2016

News Occurred at Comic-Con International/SDCC 2016. I'll Talk About Some of it Now

Comic-Con International/SDCC occurred and some stuff happened.
Just to start, don't expect anything involving the, "Fantastic Four," in comics anytime soon, although Marvel claims to have a, "Long-term plan," for the characters. I assume that means doing nothing with them for a long term.

There were tons of movie trailers, from, "Wonder Woman," to, "Justice League," on the DC side, and, "Doctor Strange," and some teasers for the upcoming, "Thor," flick on the Marvel side. There was a, "Kong: Skull Island," preview too, but of all the samplings, it was actually a trailer  that is under two-minutes long and for a television show that really caught my interest. The video for the Marvel and Fox team-up, "Legion," looked so phenomenally weird and tonally varied it really drew my eye. One website described it as, "Eclectic," and that is an understatement. This article here on Vulture has all the clips of note.
On the subject of movies, Kurt Russel is going to be Ego the Living Planet in the 2nd, "Guardians of the Galaxy," flick. That is fascinating and I doubt anyone would have predicted that.

Someone from Bleeding Cool pissed off Brian Azzarello when a discussion occurred which pointed out the new, "Killing Joke," animated movie really makes Barbra Gordon/Batgirl look bad as a character (emotionally needy, unstable, and more). I don't think Azzarello needed to yell-out into the crowd that the person talking was a, "Pussy." That makes the whole thing a train-wreck from the movie to the panel where the insult occurred.

Brie Larson is officially Captain Marvel. I've liked her in the stuff I've seen that featured her talents, so I would say this is good news.

Besides those links it was all smaller announcements such as a Young Adult book featuring Miles Morales, "Jurassic World," comics coming out in the future, and how the X-Men are going to fight a bunch of characters yet again, but this time it is the Inhumans instead of the Avengers. Hey, after the aforementioned destruction of the, "Fantastic Four," I"m just happy the mutants still get comics too. Still, not too much to discuss from this year's convention.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The 2nd Season of, "Frisky Dingo," in 2007 Uncomfortably Predicted What Donald Trump's Campaign for the Presidency Would Be Like

Back in 2007 there was a cartoon made by the people who later created, "Archer," and went on to immense success. Before, "Archer," however they made, "Sealab 2021," and then two seasons of the show, "Frisky Dingo." In the 2nd season of, "Frisky Dingo," two people run for President: A super-villain posing as a good guy and a dumb-ass billionaire. They are both basically represented now in 2016 in the form of one person--Donald Trump. At one point a character suddenly finds religion (ring a bell?), corporations play an uncomfortable role in it all, and the whole thing is a shit-show.
A super-villain who wants to destroy the world, and Killface.
While the first season of, "Frisky Dingo," features the super-villain (Killface) facing off against a crappy hero (the billionaire named Xander Crews) in the 2nd season Killface accidentally cures global warming when in his effort to push the Earth into the Sun it actually moves away three feet. This results in Killface taking advantage of an easily-fooled country and running for President. Then Xander Crews runs as well because he's a rich guy who wants to be taken seriously after everyone mocking him. Hell, there even is a political ad where Killface stands at the border of Mexico with a wall talking about reducing immigration. Yeah, pretty strange.
Idiotic billionaire Xander Crews
About 3/4th of the way through the season they quit running for President and the show goes back to its hero-and-villain shenanigans but before that it follows a faux-documentary style and discusses politics. Much of the cartoon is just silly jokes but those ominous moments about a horrific person trying to be President are echoed by this awful man named Donald Trump. An old cartoon that just wanted to be absurd and funny really predicted some things uncomfortably well, and that in and of itself is terrifying.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Rant-Reviews: Getting Indie With It!

Lesser-Known but Not Lesser-Quality
There are of course the bigger publishers who sell bunches of copies of their books and get mainstream-media attention, mass-market deals--all that jazz. There are plenty of smaller independent publishers with books worth reading and discussing too however. Let's spotlight some of those books and maybe I can get you interested in something you might have otherwise missed out on.

Checking Out the Indies
4 Kids Walk Into a Bank #2
An intriguing book from the publisher Black Mask Comics, this series has centered on some young friends who have become embroiled in all kinds of crime-situations not even most grown-ups would be comfortable with. The mixture of humor put in the story by writer Matthew Rosenberg and the amazing art by Tyler Boss results in a really fun read. Tyler's fascinating way he lays-out a page depending on the situation works perfectly. When one character uses a computer he splits the page into a fascinating mixture of wires and digital imagery, for example. This group of friends is falling further and further down a rabbit hole of trouble, and I'm eager to see how wild things will get.
5 out of 5 stars.

Kim and Kim #1
Another comic from Black Mask, "Kim and Kim," can best be described as a buddy-comedy about bounty hunters set in outer-space with LGBTQ themes and discussions. I guess that isn't an especially simple description, but, "Kim and Kim," is a pretty delightfully complex book in some ways and straightforward in others. There is a lot of plot and scene-setting, but overall it is a story about two bounty hunters who discover their target maybe isn't the bad guy. Again, sounds kind of cliché, but the injection of science-fiction scene-setting and the delightful inclusion of discussion about sexual fluidity are welcome. Plus, when was the last time a comic had a trans person as a main character--and handled that well as opposed to it being some kind of stunt or horribly-written and offensive stereotype? "Kim and Kim," has a solid first issue here that maybe wasn't amazing, but was without a doubt a good read.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

The acronym-filled sequel to Eric Powell's highly controversial, "Satan's Sodomy Baby," this book sets out to be silly, tasteless, and crass, and quite handily succeeds. Published by Powell's own, "Albatross Funnybooks," this title goes all-in on the idea of how people are both at once too sensitive about their own feelings and not sensitive enough towards the feelings of others. It mocks, "Liberals who hate comics with sexy drawings," and idotic, "Gamergaters," in the same page, points out the idiocy of people who claim we need more guns and that states should secede, really insults Donald Tump and concludes with the idea that if people can't figure out how to be good to each other regardless of our views we are probably all going to die in a fiery nuclear blast--one that is basically a self-inflicted death for our world due to the sheer moronic nature of humanity (that's a mouthful).

This is written and illustrated by Powell, and you can see his effort in every panel. It's dark, depressing, and also pretty funny even if a few jokes fall flat (aren't we past mocking Tom Brady at this point? I mean, yeah, he sucks, but it's just a fact of life). If you're easily offended this book will make you scream in rage, but if you can handle some hard truths being spoken--albeit in an often gross way--you will probably quite enjoy this book.
4 out of 5 stars.

Solarman #1
Originally a Marvel character, this version of Solarman published by Scout comics (becoming especially known for their, "Henchgirl," comic), is a very different take on the character, but doesn't yet have a particular, "Hook," to get me especially excited. We a have genius hacker who gains the power of the sun and appears ready to fight injustice, alien invasions, and etc. It all looks good and the story is decent, but nothing really impressed me enough to have me go, "I gotta read the next issue!" It is just a mish-mash of ideas put together (The kid is a hacking genius! Earth fights aliens!) and I'm not sure how well it will all gel together. Still, as I mentioned, the art is really solid and there isn't anything particularity bad about the story. it just is an above-average and unremarkable opening to the series. Perhaps it will really take off or it could just end-up as a pretty good yarn. We shall see.
3 out of 5 stars.

The Ravening #1
Published by Boundless, this publisher is in fact an imprint of Avatar Press so it maybe isn't exactly a tiny independent publisher, but the Boundless books have been interesting little titles with relatively smaller print runs (and considering how many covers an issue can have, certain versions can be really hard to find), so I'll count it as a smaller-indie because I made-up these arbitrary rules for this post and can bend them any which-way. Anyways, "The Ravening," is another one of Boundless' new comics that draw from old Avatar Press series to tell new stories while including excerpts of the old comics as back-matter. Some of the books are better than others but up to this one they have existed separate from each other in their own, "Universe," of sorts. This title actually draws from the, "Hellina," comic however to tell its story of two vampire women who as a result of losing their fathers now have to try and run their respective vampire, "Houses," while putting up with threats from other blood-sucking groups as well as shape-shifters.

If you're been reading any of the other Boundless books that reboot old series you know what to expect by now--humorous stories, bloody fights, and surprisingly explicit sex-scenes for a book that isn't straight-up porn, but clearly likes to show adult situations mixed with some solid storytelling and a dash of humor. Thanks to the solid art and good writing these books aren't just awfully-done, "Dirty comics," but instead are quite enjoyable reads that happen to also be a good deal raunchy in nature. A bit of a guilty pleasure-type read for sure, but when a book is this much fun you don't really mind.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Try Something New and Different!
Some of these books may be harder to find on the stand at your comic-shop unless they are the kind of store that orders a wide array of titles. Should you want to seek these out I would recommend trying various internet sites that sell copies, and as always, if you want future independent-books one big thing you can do is ask your local comic-seller to order you a copy. That way they know they've got a guaranteed sale for a book and the publishers behind these fine wares can feel more comfortable about how many copies their books might sell.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Rant-Reviews: Image and Marvel

Open-Up With The Text
I've read an assortment of books from Image and Marvel. These were some books I wanted to take the time out to discuss, although there is still plenty else of note from the companies (Loving me, "The Fix," for example).

Some Reviews For Your Eyeballs
The Wicked and the Divine #21
You know, the same team behind this book does, "Phonogram," yet that book has always struggled to get anywhere near the numbers this title does. That's a shame as  both books are amazing in their own unique ways, with this arc of, WIC+DIV, as it is also known, being so jam-packed with action and startling reveals it basically is one big pay-off for those of us who waited patiently throughout the (mostly) McKelvie-less, "Commercial Suicide," arc that at times was a bit slow. I didn't know we would go from, "A bit slow," to, "Mother-loving breakneck speed," however, but I'm loving it immensely. A must-read book from some must-read creators.
5 out of 5 stars.

Horizon #1
It takes the entirety of the debut issue to get to what is the apparent point of the comic--aliens are preemptively invading Earth to keep us from invading them. There are all kinds of great allegories in that idea, but the book just takes its sweet time getting us there. Before that we witness some perfectly passable art showing an alien on what is basically a road-trip, making its way to a meet-up point whilst fixing broken equipment she has. The actual concept of the story is fascinating, but I was just bored waiting for us to get there. I'll check out the 2nd issue in hopes that helps move things along, but this debut was just way too decompressed for me to get especially excited, even with that killer reveal of the comic's plot finally appearing at the end.
2 out of 5 stars.

Snotgirl #1
This has gotten immense press because the writer is someone beloved by many for his, "Scott Pilgrim," comics, Byan Lee O'Malley. The art is very expressive and by Leslie Hung who has done webcomics before but I think this might be her first work to be published (besides webcomics that were then collected)? I honestly was really ready to write this book off until the last few pages suddenly made things really interesting with a huge zag where I expected the book to keep zigging. Basically we follow the adventures of Lottie, a self-absorbed fashion blogger who has bad allergies and terrible friends. A lot of plot and story is expressed via social-media messages as illustrated in the comic, everyone is in their 20's and thinks the world revolves around them, etc. It took me a bit to realize, but those shocking last pages make it clear that perhaps we aren't supposed to like Lottie, and maybe just maybe this book is going to be a Hell of a lot darker and more intriguing than the preceding pages focused on dating-drama and fashion-concerns make it seem. Should that be the case this book has gone from a yawn-inducing story about shallow, "Millennials," to a delightfully twisted story about how one person's narcissistic obsession with being perfect can lead to violent results.
4 out of 5 stars (thanks to the extremely surprising cliff-hanger).

Moon Knight #4
With this latest issue we see the creative team of Jeff Lemire, Greg Smallwood, and Jordie Bellaire firing on all cylinders. The story continues to be mysterious but it is looking like a number of questions will be answered--or at least addressed to some degree. We soon should soon know what the deal is with this, "Other," Moon Knight running about, and I for one am greatly enjoying this take on the character with its mixture of mysticism and surrealism.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

The Vision #9
Upon reading this issue I actually went, "Okay, yeah, I can maybe see now why The Vision does some of the things it has been warned he is destined to do (e.g. attack the Avengers). Tom King has been expertly building an incredible piece of fiction here, however, and with Mike Del Mundo's stellar artwork and fantastic colors by Jordie Bellaire (whom I just mentioned as she seems to be on all the great books) I really am starting to agree with people who say this is kind of like, "Marvel's 'Watchmen'." That comparison fits in the sense it arguably could stand alone (although other comic-knowledge can help), it has a great mix of characters, and dear God does it keep you on the edge of your seat with its slowly building tension that has been starting to pay off spectacularly. The Vision went from nobody's favorite character to a fascinating character thanks to this comic with its mixture of heroics, nightmarish-horror, and deep musings on humanity and the nature of evil. I tip my hat to this entire creative team and eagerly await the remaining three issues.
5 out of 5 stars.

Conclusions To Ponder
There are all kinds of titles coming out right now in a variety of genres. I'm annoyed by how companies such as Marvel and DC keep rebooting as that harms the clearly solid titles they put out. If it takes a line-wide re-launch every 12-ish months to get something like, "The Vision," however I'll deal with it. Meanwhile with Image there are are lot of books coming out and some books are perfectly fine and others are immensely impressive, the joy is in discovering what you enjoy...or something vaguely-inspirational-sounding like that.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Oh Yeah, Comic-Con International/SDCC is this Week

I remember when it was just a weekend thing, and then when Thursday was the, "Preview Night," but now it seems like Comic-Con International, or as it is better known, San Diego Comic-Con, starts Wednesday-ish and within a few years will probably just run a whole week. That's oddly amusing to me. Anyhow, considering that I'm a huge comic-nerd it is funny to think I honestly forgot CCI/SDCC was happening. I was reminded when all that Marvel stuff that was supposed to lead-up to the show leaked, but then promptly forgot again until I was looking at comic-news and saw the show mentioned.

Perhaps because it seems like comic-companies announce nearly everything before the show (or at other conventions) I don't find myself giving as much thought to CCI/SDCC. Plus, this convention has grown so absurdly big and bloated that--as many have been protesting for years--it isn't about comics so much as it is general popular culture. There is still plenty of comic-book goodness there, I imagine, but the fact it is an over-priced, over-crowded madhouse makes me go, "Eh..I'd rather go visit the big convention in New York," as I've mentioned before on the blog. I mean, I love all popular culture, but this show just seems like too much for me (I say, as if I've ever had the opportunity or offer to go). Still, I'll follow any news of note that comes out of the show and discuss whatever is worth talking about.

Monday, July 18, 2016

James Bond #7 Has A Darkly-Hilarious Joke about Gun Control

The seventh issue of the, "James Bond," comic coming out from Dynamite marks the start of the 2nd arc titled, "Eidolon." As with the last arc, this one is written by Warren Ellis and apparently the concluding one for him before someone else takes over the book. In this issue Bond attempts to rescue British citizen who has had her cover blown out in Los Angeles where she's been surveying a Turkish agency in the States. During this rescue-process he gets into a firefight but then due to certain rules about guns in the UK (that the book has been covering), he has to dump his weapon before he heads back to the airport for a flight home. That results in this scene:
To recap, when questioned about throwing a loaded gun in a trash-can, Bond simply replies, "It's America. I don't have time to give it to a child or a mentally ill person, so I'm leaving it in a bin for them to find." When it comes to critiquing our Nation's policy on guns that is just, well, ouch. It burns because it is uncomfortably accurate about how easy it is for one to get their hands on a lethal weapon and when someone can buy an AR-15 in about seven minutes, the joke is as unfortunate as it is clever.

I'm not sure how much of that line is supposed to be coming from James Bond and how much from Warren Ellis, but whatever the case it is hilarious, albeit in a supremely depressing fashion.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Greg Rucka Vs Frank Cho Vs Me Being Tired of This Faux-Censorship Nonsense

The controversy-starter
In case you haven't heard despite the big fuss it has caused across the internet, Frank Cho was doing variant covers for Wonder Woman, Greg Rucka didn't like them, and Frank Cho quit and is now crying-out about, "censorship." It's to the point that right-wing-bullshit-slinging website Breitbart have stepped into the fray to decry the, "Censorship," of it all. I put that word in quotation marks as people often misunderstand what censorship truly is. If you aren't in prison for writing something, you basically haven't been censored, to give the frankest definition. If you are hired to make artwork by a company that owns a character, find that someone at the company doesn't like the artwork, and as a result you quit in a huff, that isn't censorship. No, that is a work disagreement that you get so mad about you dramatically yell, "See ya!" and storm away. Greg Rucka has stayed pretty quiet about all this, but Cho has shared his thoughts off-and-on.

I know the question you've doubtlessly been asking during all of this, "Okay, I see all the fuss being caused, but what does David Bitterbaum think of all this? I really gotta know!" Well I'm going to tell you, as bluntly as possible, how I feel: I honestly don't fucking care anymore.
A sketch done by Cho to be ornery in the past.
I've shared my feelings about Frank Cho in the past, but at this point I am aware that if you hire Cho for art you should know what to expect. Also, if DC gave Greg Rucka complete creative control over, "Wonder Woman," so he would come back to the company (I recall him leaving DC with some anger awhile ago) then he has control. Should this control result in him not liking what was made when DC hired Frank Cho then that's that. Either DC should have realized this could happen, Rucka should have been more relaxed about Cho's art, or Cho should have been less upset when Rucka expressed concern about the imagery--or maybe a mixture of all of that. I'm really not concerned though, because I'm just tired of this nonsense.

Seriously everyone, this isn't censorship, this is business. DC is more concerned with keeping Greg Rucka happy than Frank Cho, so when Rucka said, "Nah," to Cho's variant covers, DC realized there was more money to be made in having Rucka be pleased, so now Cho is just fuming to anyone who will listen to his tale of woe. People are making a bigger fuss out of this than they need to, because no fuss really needs to be made. I don't care if we have sexy Wonder Woman covers, but Greg Rucka was against it, DC backed him on it, Frank Cho left the gig as this upset him, and here we are. Now Cho can go back to doing his, "Funny," sketch covers, Ruck can write Wonder Woman, and I'm now done discussing this non-issue.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Oddly Cathartic Pleasure of T-Pain's Self-Deprecating Raps

Please Excuse the Wordy Title...
Seriously though, I know my blog post's title is a mouthful. It is true though! The rapper known as T-Pain is most popular for his auto-tuned voice, but one element I've enjoyed in numerous releases of his would be a self-insulting vibe in his raps that gives everything a bit of a humorous and sympathetic sound. After all, how many rappers talk about how great they are and all the women they've had sex with? A ton. How many make a jam about being turned-down by numerous women called, "Chopped N Skrewed?" Exactly.

Whether it is the aforementioned, "Chopped N Screwed," which features the sound of a chopped-and-screwed-style song, or other releases he has put out, there often is a fun self-deprecating tone to many of T-Pain's songs. "Therapy," features him angrily telling a woman that they may as well break-up, with him pettily stating, "One, two, three, four, get the Hell up out my door! Five, six, seven, eight, I don't need your sex, I'll masturbate!" Besides the catchy beat and melody, the lyrics create the image of a man pathetically trying to tell-off a lady who has upset him, but in the process he just ends up looking absurd.

The apex of T-Pain dissing himself can be found on the ,"Same Girl Triple-Up Remix." The original, "Same Girl," featured R. Kelly and Usher singing about a girl they both have met and fallen in love with before realizing their respective darlings are one-and-the-same. They have a laugh over it though and all is well. Things go differently on the remix. Give it a listen:

You can practically hear T-Pain saunter-up, introduce himself and then calmly begin talking about how he knows this woman the duo are talking about as well. The twist occurs when he declares she is in fact his wife, and both Usher and R. Kelly have been having a grand time with this woman he was working hard to keep happy and launch the career of, with him declaring via an angry sigh, "And don't tell me that you didn't see that ring on her finger, I was even trying to help her be a singer." He practically yells at the end of his verse he's through with this woman, and yet again we have a song where T-Pain has found himself left lonely due to a mixture of his own personal failings, and continuously pursuing the kinds of women where the end result is yet another angry break-up.

Not all of T-Pain's songs are about failing at love, of course, but a good number of the pieces I enjoy are set within this subject. I guess it is just a bit refreshing to have a rapper with enough of a sense of humor to rap about how much he sucks at love. I tried to reach out to T-Pain a couple of times via, "The Twitter," to ask if we could discuss how he does this in his songs, but I was sadly unable to get a response. Therefore I can't say whether this is an intentional theme or something which has come about accidentally. Whatever the case, it makes for some good music and I look forward to when T-Pain releases his next album--it's been awhile since the last one!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Marvel Has Leaks Upon Leaks AKA Bleedingcool Just Pissed Off Everyone at Marvel

Probably the Most Hated Person in the Comic-Industry Today...
Rich Johnston is the man who founded Bleedingcool, located on web at should you be unfamiliar with the site. I am confused as to how you would not know of it, as it is the source for some of the hottest industry gossip and leaks. This is probably because Bleedingcool isn't really indebted to anyone in the comic's industry besides Avatar Press, who own the website but basically take a quite, "Hands-off," approach of letting Rich and his journalistic posse do what they please. Within the last 24 hours that has involved Rich basically pissing off everyone at Marvel.

Someone whom Rich referred to as a, "Bearded insider," with access to loads of info from Marvel gave him the holy grail of leaks, it seems. Essentially every one of Marvel's big upcoming announcements set to occur as we get closer to San Diego Comic-Con/Comic-Con International were put up on Bleedingcool in a flurry of spoilers--with some promo art added as well a bit later. Someone out there, "...either hates Marvel, loves Johnston, or both." That article I just linked to breaks-down some possible ways this could have all leaked as well, but whatever the case, Marvel is angry. Oh, and all the media partners who were going to capitalize on the big reveals in assorted exclusive stories are probably none-to-pleased as well.
There will undoubtedly be a lot of fallout from this, possibly even lawsuits (I'm 100% sure if Marvel can find whomever leaked everything they will sue them into oblivion), but for now the wildest thing I've observed out of all this is that they are actually giving Slapstick his own ongoing comic. Yeah, not a mini-series, but a book that is tentatively an ongoing. Wrap your head around that. Oh, and I'm aware the character has been retooled to be different and darker since his first appearances, but still, Slapstick? I mean, I'll check it out for sure, it will undoubtedly be odd.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Now for a Post About How I Love Pirouline Cookies

I just felt like sharing I love Pirouline cookies. I frist tried them when my wife (knowing my love of wafers and cookies) bought me some she saw at the store. I was instantly enamored. These tasty rolled-wafer style cookies are amazing in the, "Dark Chocolate," variety and I was so struck by the delicious taste I wrote the customer service email about how great the cookies were.

In a sign of how Pirouline cares about their customers they actually wrote me back with thanks for my kind words and offered to send me some coupons. I gave them my address and not too long after I got in the mail coupons I put toward more wafery-choclately goodness.

I would without a doubt recommend you try Pirouline cookies, and if you're a lover of Hazelnut you'll be pleased to know they have that flavor too, as well as occasional limited-time ones. For real though, give these cookies a taste, you'll be pleased!

Note: The people who make Pirouline cookies were not aware I had a blog or that I was going to write a post about their cookies when I contacted them the first time and they offered me coupons. I just felt like making a post!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Film Friday: Superb Opening Scenes in Films

As We Begin...
I had the ingenious idea to make a post about movie openings I like. I then looked online and saw this topic has been discussed a lot. That didn't discourage me though, because while the posts I saw talked about some openings I had thought of, there are others I feel deserve mention as they are less-known. So, here are three everybody is aware of and three most may not think about (plus one honorable mention which is sort-of known).

3 Well-Known Openings
Inglorious Basterds
For a scene that is basically just two men talking it is amazing how it goes from seeming like a casual conversation to the slowly growing tension as us viewers make the realization that the Nazi played by Christoph Waltz is the worst kind of villain--the sort that lures you into a false sense of security that he can be reasoned with and placated. As Waltz talks to a farmer about missing Jews the anxiety of those watching builds and builds until the horrendous and bloody climax where it becomes apparent the very people the farmer was trying to hide are under the floorboards and he's sold them out. A riveting piece of cinema and arguably one of the best parts of the movie. Director Quentin Tarantino knew to give us his best at the start, and boy does he deliver that.
The Dark Knight
Many movies end with a bank robbery, having that serve as the climax to the story. "The Dark Knight," however, opens with a bank robbery, and a tightly choreographed one at that. In it's amazingly well-orchestrated process we not only hear about the fabled man known as, "The Joker," who will come to dominate the film, we see how much of a mastermind he is with this bank robbery and then get to be surprised as he reveals himself to be a part of the very crew that simply thought he had hired them. In a bit over five minutes director Christoper Nolan has set some incredibly high stakes, bringing us the end of most movies at the beginning, and throwing the antagonist out there before we see even a hint of the hero. It's no surprise that to this day people still oftentimes refer to this as a movie starring the Joker, with guest appearances by Batman. Much of the credit for that goes of course to Heath Ledger's amazing performance, and with Nolan providing Ledger a scene like this to make his splash in, something magical resulted.
James Bond: Casino Royale
When this movie came out folk were feeling a bit down on the James Bond franchise. "Die Another Day," had come along and completely shit the bed, ruining any goodwill Pierce Brosnan had built-up during his time as the character. Fans were concerned this would be another silly jaunt full of weird technology and campy villains. Then we get an incredibly dark opening scene that opens in a stark black-and-white where the new James Bond confronts someone in a quiet room--but that scene is inter-cut with a brutal bathroom fight that the lack of color somehow makes all the more gritty. This scene doesn't just serve as the introduction to the film, it shows us that this new Bond we're getting ain't gonna be like some of the old ones. There really was no better way to put fears to rest, and that the rest of the movie is so expertly done only helps solidify, "Casino Royale," as a classic.

3 Less-Discussed Openings
Assault on Precinct 13 (2005 version)
I know, I know, the remake in no way lives-up to the John Carpenter classic. That said, I love the opening. When I first saw this it was at a movie theater back in the day that didn't have any special screen or, "bumper," to announce the previews were over and the movie was starting, the movie would just begin. For some reason the copy of the film they had lacked any studio logos or such, so it just opened on Ethan Hawke talking excitedly. For the first minute of the film I thought I was watching another preview. This opening on Ethan Hawke in an undercover role talking about drugs was so odd however that as it proceeded I began to go, "What is going on?" until it dawned on me the film proper had actually begun. It was a wild experience that is well complimented by the scene's sudden leap into action-fueled violence. If only the rest of this remake could have been as good.
I would argue this movie is an overlooked gem. Remembered by most people as the other movie where Halle Berry shows her breasts (the much more depressing ,"Monster's Ball," being the other), this actually is a peppy little film that talks about technology (at least as best as it could be talked about in 2001), concepts of good guys and bad guys, and features John Travolta doing that charismatic-villain role he tends to excel at. Plus, it has Hugh Jackman (this time affecting an American accent)! The opening scene though, it is just so wild. We have John Travolta talking about the movie, "Dog Day Afternoon," and how things would be different today whilst casually smoking in what appears to be a restaurant. Then the camera suddenly pans out and we see SWAT officers everywhere whom he commands to move out of his way. Suddenly its apparent Travolta has hostages rigged to explode with bombs and is in the process of robbing a bank himself--not unlike, "Dog Day Afternoon." Of course a bomb goes off and then the movie whisks us back to true start of the film, as we actually opened in the last quarter. It's bizarre to think the flick opens around the last 3/4th and then rewinds before making its way back, but it works and makes the impact of that opening all the more dramatic.
James Bond: Quantum of Solace
Another Bond movie, one with much less respect given to it. Seriously, out of the, "James Bond," films Daniel Craig was a part of this is the one everyone loves to hate. I'm with the folk who defend it however, thinking it is actually a solid piece of entertainment and a worthy entry in the Bond-mythos. The fact it actually links-up with, "Casino Royale," makes it a bit unique in the idea of each Bond film standing alone. There is a huge opening car-chase with Bond and then at the end he pops the trunk and we are surprised to in fact see a villain from the previous film that Bond intends to interrogate in an effort to learn more about the murder of the woman he cared about in the previous film, Vesper. Should someone be going into this film without knowing it was a bit of a direct sequel to, "Casino Royale," they would be surprised not only to see someone was in the trunk of Bond's car during the entire chase, but that they relate to an earlier movie. It is a way to have an opening that jars the viewer, and for that reason it is a great opening scene in a movie I would argue also is solid as well, even though many disagree.

One Honorable Mention That Is Sort-of Talked About
The movie, "NARC," could be mistaken as being your standard gritty flick about the police investigating the death of a fellow officer, but is elevated by great performances (Ray Liotta always makes a great cop or crook) and some intriguing twists. It's opening is amazing however. It just starts. We join an on-foot chase in process, unaware who exactly is whom, the camera shaking as it attempts to keep-up, no music playing, just intense breathing and footsteps. It's quick, terrifying, and bloody as the man being chased leaves all kind of harm in his wake and the man in pursuit we later learn is an officer played by Jason Patric who follows closely. From that moment on, "NARC," had my full attention and kept it throughout.

Roll Credits
When it comes to watching a movie you of course want it to have an entertaining middle and satisfying end, but I would contend that the most important part is to have an opening that grabs the viewer's attention. These movies--both the popular and lesser-known--do just that, and serve as examples to others of how to make a great opening scene in your film.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Mini-Run Review: Moon Knight #1-#3 (The Latest Series)

An Awesome Character and Concept
Moon Knight/Marc Spector (plus he has the multiple personalities) is of course a character I absolutlely love. He and Luke Cage are quite possibly my favorite characters. I first discovered Moon Knight during Charlie Huston's run which was amazing, went back and read the early stuff by Doug Moench which was also incredible, and have checked-out other Moon Knight comics old-and-new since that have varied between great (Warren Ellis' run, and Brian Wood was solid)-to-okay (Bendis did a fair job even if it basically was just an excuse to set-up, "Age of Ultron.") to horribly underwhelming (Some of that 1990's stuff is weak). Comics about Moon Knight can vary in quality, clearly.

What is interesting about Moon Knight is that even though he isn't the biggest-name character, since Huston did a run of the character he has almost always had a comic in-print about his solo adventures, or with him on a team (remember his stint with the, "Secret Avengers," as they were called?), which of course makes me happy. While it makes me happy, I wonder how well these books do, as they always seem to get cancelled but then come back with a new creative team as if Marvel realizes when done properly Moon Knight is superb and not merely a Batman knock-off as some have always accused him of being.
As books about Moon Knight/Marc Spector can be really good or pretty bad, I was both excited and nervous for the latest saga in the character's life written by Jeff Lemire. Lemire has made some really incredible stuff (I loved, "Essex County,") and struggled on other titles ("Animal Man," got boring for me) so I was unsure if we were going to get the Lemire who brings his, "Sweet Tooth," writing abilities, or more of a, "Justice League United,"-style Lemire. Well, the series is now three issues in and I think I can start making some decisions on the books quality in the form of a Q&A with myself...

Questions and Answers
Is the book good?
Yes, it is, very much so!

Okay. Go on.
Well, it takes a somewhat cliché concept but morphs it a bit so that it actually works. The idea is that Marc Spector is in a mental institution where things aren't quite right. He's told there is a Moon Knight, but it ain't him, its just a delusion he has had ever since he came to the institution years ago to think he is that hero. The thing is, other people in the institution are familiar to him (and he to them) so he figures it must be an elaborate ploy. During hallucinations/visions he meets with his God, Khonosu, who tells him that other Egyptian deities are trying to to break into reality and have tricked Spector into thinking he's just a crazy person. The thing is, even Khonosu admits Spector could fully well be utterly crazy, but amusingly asks if it really matters. So, the three issues so far are Marc and his friends working at escaping from the institution and finally appearing to make good on that goal at the end of the latest issue. That good?

Yes, that's pretty detailed! I wanted to ask though, do I need to be a Moon Knight junkie to follow this?
No, you really don't. The book basically lays-out everything clearly for readers and has allusions to the older and more recent past, but is quite friendly to anyone just now dipping their toe into the Moon Knight mythos.
Okay, so how about the art?
The art is incredible. Greg Smallwood absolutely kills it. He alternates his style perfectly, having reality in straight clear lines and the fantasy-scenes in a more almost-hazy kind of appearance. It's gorgeous stuff and works perfectly in the book.

Earlier you said the general story idea is a bit of a cliché. Does that hurt things much or is it done well enough the reader won't mind?
Well, the plot of, "Hey, the hero is being told they're crazy and their beliefs are not real," happens so often in books it has become overplayed. I mean, of course the characters are actually heroes and they are temporarily being fooled! The way Lemire gets out of this seeming too hackneyed however is that he does introduce the fact that Marc Spector is told how there is a Moon Knight out there fighting crime, he's just told he is crazy to think it's him. That actually introduces some legitimate doubt into the story, because normally in these plots it is the kind of thing where the heroes are told they are in a world with no super-folk, etc. Yet, here people are like, "Oh yeah, we have Spider-Man, Moon Knight, and all those folk, you're just silly to think you're one of them though." It helps save things from being too rote, with the plot also being helped well in the scene where Spector is told by the very God he worships he could just be batshit crazy, but likes feeling like he has a purpose.
So you'd recommend the book?
Yeah, I'd most definitely recommend this thanks to its stellar writing, amazing artwork, and the fact that it has Moon Knight. I'm a total Moon Knight junkie and will buy even the worst stuff that features him, but I'm happy when it is a comic that's really good like this one. I'm not quite certain how this story-arc will end and where it will go, but if it can keep-up the intriguing way of telling the story and keeps having fantastic artwork I'll be eager to read it--and the next issue comes out soon as well! I would give these first three issues 5 out of 5 stars and eagerly say folk should read them.

Final Thoughts
As I said in my Q&A with myself, this is some great work from Lemire and Smallwood. You should pick up this book without a doubt, because if more people read it hopefully it will last a good chunk of issues. Then we will eventually get a Moon Knight movie or Netflix show and I can eager watch them. That's my theory at least. Please don't crush my dreams.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

A Review of the 1st and 2nd Issue of, "The Ugly Tree"

Intro Time!
I first came across, "The Ugly Tree," thanks to an article on Bleeding Cool. Written and drawn by Abrahm Akin, I thought it looked like a fun comic with its mixture of humor and homage to 1980's-styled slasher films--of which I'm a fan. I reached out to Akin about purchasing the first two issues so that I could review them and after buying the comics they were shipped to me with good speed and I had them at my house ready to be read and enjoyed! Having read the comics I can now offer my thoughts...

In the genre of horror, there are always monsters in the closet.
The first and second issue of, "The Ugly Tree," are good fun. The intention is without a doubt to riff on those aforementioned 1980's horror movies, but while also of course telling a unique tale. Not too much time is spent explaining the past, but something awful occurred that released monsters into the town who now alternate between doing inoffensive things like hanging out and getting drunk to committing horrible bloody atrocities. As those old slasher-flicks were loaded with nudity and sex the comic discusses that too, with the monsters quite aware of their own desire to see human flesh, or to take advantage of others horniness so as to lure them to doom. Seriously, it ain't an old-school horror story without someone's desire for sex leading to a hideous dismemberment.

Akin's artwork carries with it a cartoony-vibe that allows the humorous aspects of the comic to flow well and the bloody parts to be more funny than gross--this is a comic about horror, but itself isn't a horror comic so much as a commentary on them, after all. By being a bit of an examination of horror the comic can cleverly comment on how it is doing things that are cliche because that's the point, to write both a love-letter to horror films and poke some fun at them.
The monsters fight amongst themselves as well.
Were I to have some criticism for the comic it would be that while we get some good character development with one main character--Cherry (who is visiting her family for the Summer)--and some characterization with her younger sister, Peach, their brother just comes off as a bit of a jerk. Plus, if anything we maybe get a bit too much characterization with the monsters, as odd as that sounds. A part of me wouldn't have minded if they were kept a bit more mysterious with less of them shown, as telling us their names and having them crack jokes kind of humanizes them and makes them less intimidating or least until they then go and do something terrible! Still, those qualms aside I really liked, "The Ugly Tree," and can award it a very recommendable...
4.5 out of 5 stars.

In Closing
I should get a copy of the sketchbook too!
When it comes to the smaller-press comics you can always find all kinds of interesting works. "The Ugly Tree," has two great issues so far, and I look forward to seeing where Abrahm Akin takes things next!