Friday, June 29, 2007

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Here's some links to enjoy over the weekend!

Mike Sterling presents: The End of Civilization.

Chris Sims brings some old-fashioned nightmare fuel.

Rick Phillips finds Richard Roundtree... as Black Lightning?!

Scipio is an artist, dammit!

Finally, Newsarama has some cool previews of some DCs coming out next week. How appropriately awesome would it be if that the issue of "JSoA" with the Citizen Steel cover is coming out around Independence Day? But Diamond sez no dice, sadly.

Have a good weekend everyone!

4 Color Cinema

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver SurferToday is a pretty good time to be a comic book fan. As long as you are buying tradepaperbacks from Barnes and Nobles and discussing the critical merits of Watchmen to nodding sycophants who haven't read it, then everything's kosher. The upshot is that Hollywood is more than content to churn out pieces of 4 Color Cinema to a public willing to pay money to see them without having to worry about removing some sort of social stigma. The difference in marketting between Superman: The Movie ("It's not reverant to that stupid source material, honest!) and Spider-Man ("Remember those comics you read as a kid? SO DO WE!") is plain enough evidence of this.

Which gets us to the film I'm talking about today, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. The sequel to the "bomb" original (we all should be so lucky as to make "bombs" which gross $330mil worldwide), the film picks up a few years later, and the FF are America's favorite celebrity superheroes. Reed Richards' impending nupitials to Sue Storm has the paparazzi in a flashbulb frenzy, but deep in space, a new threat is slowly making its way towards Earth, one that not only will disrupt the wedding but also literally destroy the world.

ROTSS is a remarkable film primarily because of how different it is from a lot of its fellow comic book film brethren. First off, it's a brisk film, clocking in at 94 minutes. This tight cut restricts bloated setpieces and super-emotions from running wild, as well as dictating a fast pace which works very much in the film's favor. Furthermore, it's rated PG, another oddity. This means that we don't get to see one our beloved superheroes have to restrain himself from beating his opponent to death or such. And trust me, that is not a complaint.

The characters are spot-on, much as they were in the first film. But while the original did suffer from a lot of necessary exposition, this time around everything hits the ground running. We go from the home life of the team to the arrival of the mysterious anomaly to all-out action without a lot of plot-explanation bogging it all down. The effects are nicely done, although Sue's colored contacts are a bit distracting. The Surfer is wonderfully realized, a lithe, silver missle streaking across the screen while in action, but a commanding presence when he speaks. Even the returning Doom gets a makeover which improves upon his original performance.

Most of the complaints I have are what I call "nerd complaints." Galactus, for example, was not what I expected. And would it have killed screenwriter Don Payne to toss in a "To me, my board!" at some point? But those are minor quibbles in the grand scope of things, and I try to put them out of my mind while watching a film like this. This is a different FF and a different Galactus, and as such must be taken on their own terms, not unlike an "Ultimate" or "All-Star" comic book.

This film is accessible and safe, a good family-friendly action adventure story. And really, shouldn't a Fantastic Four film be like that? This was a fun film. I had a smile on my face for most of the running length as my fiancee and I happily munched popcorn and watched the story unfold. (My fiancee, I should say, is not a comic book fan, but really liked both the first FF as well as this one.) It's not a serious, straight-laced affair, blaoted on its own importance and granduer. You have no idea how much I wanted to say those words about Superman Returns.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is a high quality, enjoyable, and fun movie which harkens back to the days when you could get a globe hopping adventure yarn in the pages of 2 or 3 issues of Fantastic Four for about 20 cents apiece. Highly recommended.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Discount Bin Finds

Predator vs Magnus, Robot Fighter #1-2 -- Two of the big players in the 90s, Dark Horse (who's still kicking it solid today) and Valiant (who one can imagine is lurking in the shadows, waiting to strike after the Acclaim fiasco) join up to bring us this two part series about warrior's honor, the hunt, and duty.

In the 40th century, on the continent-spanning city of NorthAm, a group of rich and powerful 'robot hunters' get their jolly from stalking and blasting robots. But when one of their number becomes the prey for a Predator, Magnus is called in to save the day. But will Magnus, whose disgust with the "Cloud Cloppers" of NorthAm is evident, do the right thing? Or will he let the Predator finish its hunt? Shooter and Ostrader cover all the bases here, as we get to see Magnus 1) fight robots, 2) bemoan the rich and powerful of NorthAm, and 3) mack it on Leeja, and we get to see the Predator 1) hunt people, 2) kill people, and 3) make trophies out of people. Sounds about right to me. What more could you ask for? Well, I suppose you could ask for a Robot-Fighter-fu versus Alien-kata throw down, and you get that as well. Lee Weeks' art is solid, but has that sketchy, almost washed-out look a lot of Valiants had at this point. It's not bad, but to a younger reader, used to the glossy and shiny colors of todays comic books, will be taken aback.

Magnus was always a fun series to me, since with the exception of Rai it was pretty much out on its own, telling Sci-fi stories which read like a lightweight version of Phillip K. Dick but with more kung-fu. And really, my main criticism of Dick's work has always been the lack of robots being chopped in half by a guy in one piece and white go-go boots. It's a basic concept but it works well; there's a lot of stories to be told given the setting and premise alone, and the Robot Fighter was one of Valiant's main draws for the life of the company. Similarly, in the 90s Dark Horse was more than content to mine their horror and sci-fi licenses (including Aliens, The Terminator, and even Robocop) as much as possible. It seemed like there was a constant stream of new Predator miniseries. That was more my brother's area than mine, but they must have been doing something right.

The story sounds generic and to a certain extent it is, but its still a lot of fun. Seeing the Predator being hunted down by PolRobs is neat (if totally ineffective from a strategic standpoint), and the revelation as to why the Predator is there is intriguing. Plus we get to see two icons of the "Big Indies" square off. A fun if ultimately meaningless romp, I'd gladly recommened this to fans of both Predator and Magnus.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What Looks Good?

Today is Wednesday, so you know what that means! Go check out Diamond's Shipping List for this week, then head on down to your Local Comic Book Shop and have some fun!

What looks good to me this week?

JSA Classified #27 -- When this series shines the spotlight on one character, I tend to enjoy it, so the second part of this Wildcat tale should be right up my alley.

A Nightmare on Elm Street #8 -- Pro: Wildstorm has some very cool horror licenses to play with. Con: All three titles are no longer ongoing. Pro: Two of them are coming back as an anthology! Con: It's "NOES" and "TCM" instead of "NOES" and "F13."

Wonder Woman #10 -- I started getting this series in a subversive attempt to get my fiancee into comics. Then I discovered I was enjoying them. Crap!

Legion of Monsters: Satana -- Oh, what I would do to have "LoM" become an ongoing anthology title! In addition to the Daughter of Satan, we also get the Living Mummy. The Living Mummy, people!

Marvel Adventures: The Avengers -- Let's see, a diverse group of powerful heroes come together to battle villains who threaten the entire planet. Why is it that I can only get good Avengers stories in All-Ages book?

X-Men: First Class (v.2) #1 -- The miniseries and Special were pleasures to read, and this looks to be more of the same. I don't mind reading an All-Ages X-book, since it, you know, saves me from reading other X-Books. Well, except "New Excalibur." Which PWNS.

The Phantom #17 -- You might have to special order it, but there's something to be said about adventure comics versus superhero comics, and the difference is refreshing.

Also, I need to buy Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #53, as my shop did not receive it last week. Which means: Black Manta is in the house!

So what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Characters I Like -- Fate

I started seriously collecting comic books in the early 90s. I mean, I was aware of them in the 80s as a kid, and I watched "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends" and played with my Super Powers toys. But around the end of 1991 into the beginning of 1992, this tween got himself into the comic book habit hard.
This does explain a lot of things about me, including why certain characters still hold a special place for me despite their, shall we say, questionable origins? Maybe I'm the weird one, but I like Doomsday and Bane, thankyouverymuch. So this entry is a tribute to another such character who I enjoy despite all eveidence (and potentially, good taste) to the contrary.


Yes, I thought about making a Halloween costume as Fate.  No, I did not actually do it.

The 90s were a strange time. With Image first hitting the scene, mega macho mystery men with giant arsenals and super-sexed vamps with impossible anatomy were all the rage. Marvel bought into this whole hog (witness: Thor With A Gun), and eventually DC got into the act, as well, revamping and updating their roster of characters to make them hipper, younger, and (ostensibly) edgier. One such revamp was Jared Stevens, AKA Fate.

Introduced during "Zero Hour," an event which as a DC neophyte made absolutely no sense but remained extremely awesome nonetheless, Fate wasn't your usual mumbo-jumbo spewing mystic. No, a former mercenary (ever notice that comic book universes are teeming with mercenaries?), he got down and dirty with demons and monsters, and had the foresight to melt down the Helmet of Nabu and turn it into a giant, golden blade and some ankh-shaped throwing daggers. He was very "kewl" and "gnarly" and all other sorts of words like that. And for someone like me, who was so naive in the ways of DC, reading about a new character -- one whom I had the first appearance of, and knew everything about -- was very appealing to my 14 year old self.

Fate battles Grimoire, evil computer, FATE #6

The result was a series which was pretty much straight action with a magical twist to it. It might seem bone-headed in retrospect, to take a character like Dr. Fate and morph him into a Big Knife weilding mercenary with a mullet and ink. But at the time, it was my favorite DC title. It was different, at least to a 14 year old, from all of the seemingly anonymous Image or mutant books out there, and with Jared being a newbie and outsider, it allowed the reader to gain insight as well. I always thought a team-up of the classic, spell casting Dr. Fate with the gruff, harsh Fate would make for interesting reading.

Fate in his later series.

"Fate" was not a very successful title, and certainly never mentioned in the same breath as it's fellow "ZH" title "Starman." In the end, Fate was given two shots at solo stardom before fading away, eventually getting himself killed in the first issue of the relaunched "JSA." After that, he would pop up from time to time inside Fate's amulet with the other former weilders. But for a while, there was a time when the main magical character in the DCU didn't just wave his hands at you and spout gibberish.

No, there was a time when he would mess you up.

This is Fate, and he is a character I like.

Monday, June 25, 2007

What I Read This Week - DC

Showcase Presents: Aquaman v.1 -- He is the King of the Seven Seas! So proclaims the copy on the back cover of his black and white, phonebook-style trade paperback. Contained in these 500+ pages are the early Silver Age adventures of Aquaman and, a little later, Aqualad. Before becoming the King of Altantis, Aquaman was content to have adventures involving modern pirates, mysterious ship disapperances, mischevious water sprites, and aliens. Stories range from shorts from "Adventure Comics" to feature-length tales from "Showcase" and his own series, to a couple of anamolies -- one issue each of "Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane" and "Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen," both of which feature Aquaman. Good Clean Fun for fans of DC before "COIE." My favorite story from this volume remains "The Undersea Hospital," a short from "Adventure Comics" #262 which is both endearing in its innocent simplicity as well as grin-inducing in its silliness. We're getting a taste of some of this kind of fun in the Tad Williams' scribed issues of "Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis," but nothing on this scale.

Trials of Shazam #7 -- The first thing you notice about this comic is (appropriately) the cover, which I think was solicited as being attached to a much earlier issue than this one. Which makes sense, as it features Sabina and Freddie in the desert, which was the previous trial. But that's alright. Winnick finally gives us some background on Freddie's rival (Black Sabina?) as well as having Freddie fail at a task (partially). Compared to Smith's "Shazam! and the Monster Society of Evil!" this series is dark and brooding. But to be completely fair, I have enjoyed it quite a bit because of that. The mandate at DC says that Magic Has Changed, so let's play with that. Just because it's different from what Captain Marvel used to be doesn't mean it's automatically crap. Once "Trials" has wrapped, I think the DCU will have a pretty reasonably interesting character in Shazam, alter-ego of Freddie Freeman. Maybe he can guest-star in Black Adam's ongoing title -- oh come on, you KNOW that's coming eventually. Recomended for Captain Marvel fans, but with forewarning.

Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 -- Well, you probably read about it anyway, but in case you missed it, this is the finale of this series, axed in order to return to the previous volume's numbering to go along with the resurrection of... ah, you-know-who. Facing down Inertia's master plan, Bart has to stop the Rogues and keep not only himself, but also his grandmother and gal-pal safe... without the Speed Force. Bart never had a chance, really -- editorially turned into the Flash, a lot of his unique character was lost in translation. I'm the teensy-tiny minority that actually enjoyed this series from the beginning. In my mind, Bart's ascension to the Flash mantle compared well with Wally's following "COIE" and "Legends." But I recognize that my opinion is not shared, and that's cool. What most readers will agree on is that this title had been picking up steam since Marc Guggenheim came on board as writer. Ah well. Overall, even knowing how the comic was going to end, I thought this was a pretty good issue. I felt bad for Bart, even if part of it was metatextual. I'd recommend this to Flash fans, but you know what? You can safely skip it if the whole thing irritates you, and just wait for "All-Flash" and then the relaunch with Waid in a few months. It annoys me to have Wally come back so soon. I wanted Barry Allen back, to be honest, and I think that may still happen, depending on how you read the ending to "Justice League of America" #10. But the fanboy in me is torn... nnnnnnh, Mark Waid back on Flash! Lure... too... strong!

Detective Comics #833 -- The Dark Knight rings up former teammate Zatanna after an increasingly controversial and dangerous stage magician has one of his assistants die during a performance. Whatever you may feel about "Identity Crisis," it's nice to see the fallout from it still being dealt with this many years after the fact. Also nice to see is Dini making callbacks to minor characters he has introduced, which help the "universe building" (for lack of a better term) feel to the Bat-verse which he has been laying the foundation for since "OYL." It's obvious that Dini has a lot of affection for Zatanna (Gee I wonder why? Not that I blame him...), but since said affection doesn't go so far as to be pandering or simple doe-eyed fanlust, it plays pretty well. The cliffhanger caught me by surprise, but I'm not sure how it fits in with what Morrison is doing over in "Batman;" then again, I'm not sure how anything fits in with that, so I grin and bear it. Bat-fans have things pretty good right now and this title is a good indication of why.

Pick of the Pile: This is a hard call. I really want to pick "Showcase: Aquaman," but that's not really fair to the others. So I will instead go with "Flash: FTMA." Seeing Bart's last stand was a major bummer, and the whole way the entire ordeal was handled was off-putting, but I liked the story and enjoyed the conclusion. Hopefully this Big Red Reset Button stuff won't keep spiraling like it has been lately.

What I Read This Week - Marvel

Iron Man #19 -- A "World War Hulk" tie-in, this issue is featues beautiful art by Butch Guice, and a pretty well-written script by Christos Gage, who wrote the surprisingly-good "Civil War: Casualties of War" one-shot. The story follows Tony Stark's day as the Hulk's stoneship makes its way to Earth, and his preparations for the inevitable showdown. By this point, the details of Iron Man and Hulk's fight have been hashed through quite thoroughly, but ultimately, this Iron Fan is more than satisfied with how he is portrayed both here and in "World War Hulk" #1, which I did not buy, and do not intend to buy in the future. One thing which I must give credit to Marvel is the way they use the tie-ins to these giant crossovers: both "Civil War" and so far "World War Hulk" have given me enough information in the tie-ins that I already buy to be able to dodge buying the main miniseries. Tony is fighting against an unmoving editorial wall in the Hulk, however. Still, I liked this comic book quite a bit, and by buying it I didn't need to drop $4 on a miniseries either. There's a lot of perfectly justified Iron Haters out on the Internet nowadays, but a lot that comes from his portrayl in titles outside of his own -- I think that if given a chance, most Marvel readers would enjoy this title. Recommended reading for Iron Fans, and as I have been saying for months, non-Iron Fans might like what they find as well.

Nova #3 -- It's been a rough homecoming for Richard Rider. His parents don't seem to know how to respond him, the entire community he knew has changed, and now he is facing down the most viscious "heroes" in the entire world -- the Thunderbolts! Will Nova register and join the Initiative, or throw in his lot with common criminals? Another enjoyable issue which deals very nicely with the fact that, especially to someone who wasn't there when all this went down, "CW" changed a lot of people really fast, and some parts of it simply make no sense. Richard's choice at the end is pretty much the only one he could have made, "Annihilation: Conquest" not withstanding. Also, it's interesting to see some of the details regarding everyone working for the government -- the T-Bolts, for example, do not answer to Tony Stark in any capacity, which is mind-boggling. Anyway, this was a nice little "check-in" from space for Nova, definitely a good read, and with "A:C" on the horizon, this series should remain interesting. This little story might be just a "name check" for the Initiative, and it definitely demonstrates just how head-scratchingly weird it is to have Speedball be grim n' gritty, but Nova (the character) has been on a roll of sorts since this time last year, so I'm happily along for the ride.

Annihilation: Conquest Prologue -- Ah, no ads. My favorite kind of comic book. Well, okay, my favorite kind of comic book has no ads and, say, Iron Man fighting Fin Fang Foom, but you get my point. I bought into "Annihilation" whole-hog and was not disappointed in it. From the Prologue to the four miniseries to the actual meat and potatoes event, "Annihilation" was like a nice honeydew sorbet for the pallete stomped upon by the harsh taste of "Civil War." And, judging by this Prologue, the sequel looks to be more of the same (in a good way). As the Kree Empire tries to rebuild itself following the Annihilation War, some heroes find new paths to walk (the former Star-Lord, Peter Quill) while others find new purpose and drive (the new Quasar, Phylla-Vel). I don't know much about either of these characters except what they did in "Annihilation," but DnA do a good job of bringing them to life, and giving them unique and memorable voices. Quill especially is a fun character, the kind of down on his luck regular joe who would have fit in back in the Mighty Marvel Manner 3 decades ago. The baddies of the piece are almost like someone in editorial threw out the names of every alien race from the 90s they could think of then picked one, but for right now I think it's an interesting choice with a lot of potential. Looks like "A:C" will be the refreshingly fruity alternative to "The Initiative." Ahhhhhh.

Heroes for Hire #11 -- A lot of people get on me about this, but man, is this a fun title. EVen when Humbug is captured by giant psychic insects in the Savage Land, it's fun, full of energy, and fast paced. The team returns from the Savage Land (with Moon Boy!) and find themselves smack dab in the middle of "World War Hulk" #1. Luckily for the readers, they go do something on the side of the main story instead of just watching Green Genes beat up Shellhead. The mix of characters, and the way which Wells plays them off of each other keeps me coming back for more and more. Also fun in this issue is a backup featuring the new Scorpion being tailed (no pun intended) by resident a-hole Paladin, which features the most insanely awesome weapon in the history of the Marvel universe: JOSH! I think all Marvel readers should be buying and supporting this title. It's solid every month without a lot of yakking or overly politcal allegory which falls apart on closer inspection. It's like the Bronze Age all over again! (Take that as you will.)

Iron Man: Hypervelocity #6 -- Adam Warren's technogeek love-fest wraps up here in what can be best described as the wet dream of a guy who spends too much time at Radio Shack. The entire issue takes place in about 3 minutes and 38 seconds as Warren finally ties the iArmor gags into something involved with the plot. It's unfortunate that none of the developments from this series will ever be used again, since Bendis didn't author it. Still, fans feeling the backlash of the mass of negative Iron Man appearances all over the Marvel Universe (I'm looking at you, Slott, and you too, JMS!) could do a lot worse than grabbing this in trade form -- high energy and always bounding forward with a lot of creative if not always 100% defined ideas. Not that there's anything wrong with that... when did we reach the point where we couldn't have things just be vague for vagueries sake?
Then again, there is a whole faction of folks who believe that Marvel's current output is part of some vast right-wing conspiracy; those will probably see Tony 2.0's approach to "godhood" as more of the same.

Pick of the Pile: Have to give it to "Annihilation: Conquest." An overall enjoyable tale which sets up some very interesting new conflicts. Hopefully "A:C" will continue the high standards of the first one, and give us all a reason to read Marvel beyond the quasi-politcal re-enactments.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

El Jacone is not a man to be trifled with.

Finally, there's a place on the Internet to talk about comic books!

Greetings everyone. Maybe that's a bit pretentious. Let me try again.

Hi there! Welcome to the Comic Book Bunker. You can call me El Jacone (Luke is fine too), and I'm in charge here. Inside these hallowed (read: electronic) walls, I intend to not only talk about the new comics which magically appear on the racks each week, but also older stuff which I think is cool -- your mileage may vary on that last one.

I decided to launch this blog because of some of the great comic book bloggers whose pages I frequent -- like Mike Sterling and Chris Sims and Kevin Church and Bully and Scipio and Rick and Rob! Hopefully I will be half as creative and fruitful in this venture as those fine gents -- because then I'll be succeeding beyond my wildest dreams.

Turn the page, gentle readers, for the adventure's about the begin!