Thursday, July 31, 2008

4 Color Cinema

The Dark Knight

You guys may have heard about a new Batman movie coming out this summer.  Yeah, I know, I was surprised too, although I guess that the last one did good enough business to warrant a sequel.  Unsurprisingly, the villian is the Joker, and there's some Year One-ish stuff with Harvey Dent in there as well.  Anyone else catch this?  It sorta flew under the radar.


Ah who am I kidding?  Even a deluded weirdo like me could only keep that gag going for one paragraph!  The Dark Knight, Nolan's even more nightmarish and nihilistic follow-up to Batman Begins, has hit and hit hard, smashing records at the box office and breaking new grounds for darkness and maturity in a Superhero movie.  Any residual taste leftover from the lukewarm (Aside: I used to really hate that word as a kid.  Now I don't mind it.  Anyway.) reception of Superman Returns has been swept away as the the monies are continually poured into Warners' coiffers on the bent back of the Bat-Man.

The story of our film involves Gotham City's new "white knight," District Attorney Harvey Dent, and his crusade to shut down the mob which has controlled the city for so long.  Well, that's the "main" story, anyway.  The "real" story is that self-same mob hiring the bizarre psychopath known only as the Joker to kill Batman, making Gotham safe for their shady operations once again.  But Joker is not some mere hitman -- his plans call for nothing short of anarchy and chaos in the streets, pushing the already on-edge city off the proverbial cliff into barbarism.  Batman has to not only deal with the mob, but also this "wild card" thrown into the mix, all as Bruce Wayne sees any chance of a normal life slipping through his fingers.

So yeah, you can see that Nolan is not exactly producing something Bill Fingerish here.  This is a story about broken people in a broken world, where redepmtion seems impossible and that light at the end of the tunnel really is a train heading for you.  But in this darkness we find that the struggle of a hero is not lost, it's just harder to see.

The script functions as more of a series of setpieces than as a whole -- this is a series of issues in a major storyline moreso than a one-shot -- but as we move from one to the other we get a sense for the hopelessness of the citizens of Gotham as well as the upward struggle it's saviors have to face.  Bale's Batman remains unyielding and intense, without the hesitation he had initially, while his Bruce Wayne is more introspective and contemplative.  Aaron Eckhardt shines (no pun intended) as Harvey Dent, a man who knows he can that he really can't trust anyone, but knows that to do his job he puts himself in the crosshairs.  Dent's driven pursuit of the mobsters of Gotham ably demonstrates his belief in justice, a belief which puts him squarely at odds with the still-overtly-corrupt GCPD.  Dent emerges as one of the true "heroes" of the film.  

The supporting cast all handles things pretty nicely.  Michael Caine doesn't have as much to do as Alfred this time out, but he handles it with aplomb.  Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox similarly has less to do, but still has a great series of interactions with Bale, refining their relationship to the next logical step.  And what can I say about Gary Oldham as Jim Gordon except that he IS Jim Gordon -- and seeing the character as truly the Only Honest Cop in Gotham is something we don't get to see that much anymore, but shows off why Gordon is such a lasting character.

Maggie Gyllenhaal, taking over the role of Rachel Dawes for Katie Holmes, unfortunately suffers the exact same fate as her predecessor, as Rachel feels tacked on and obligitory; her presence in the film is limited to removeing accusations of the whole affair being a sausge-fest and being a MacGuffin.  Frankly, this character was just plain ill-concieved.  

And yes, the real star in this 4 Color epic is indeed Heath Ledger's insane (or perhaps, "hyper-sane?") Joker, a harsh and mean-spirited clown in the most evil sense of the word.  His constant ticks and twitches keep the audience's eyes on him whenever he is on screen, and his constant twisting of phrases in his delivery and unpredictable behavior makes him the obvious focus.  The inspiration for this take on the Joker comes from all over the board -- liberal amounts of Killing Joke, for example, but also Arkham Asylum -- and the result is one of the most visually and psychologically arresting film villians since the debut of Jigsaw (whom, most fans will not want to admit, this Joker shares some characteristics with).  He pushes everyone around him to the edge, whether they are his allies or not, because he has no allies.  His side is his own, and frankly, that's pretty much as expected.  Joker is THE star of this film; Batman and the rest play second fiddle to the Clown Prince of Crime.

The effects and stuntwork are top-notch.  The use of physical stuntwork wherever possible, including bank robbers zip-lining across rooftops and Batman base-jumping off a skyscraper, add a weight and tactility to the imagery which sells the believability.   The appliance on Ledger looks natural and second-nature, and the other major character effect (yeah, at this point I am going to go vague for spoilers... I suppose SOME people may not have seen it yet) is disturbing and deeply effective.  There's also plenty of stunt driving and explosions to keep you entertained.

Now, the inevitable part of this post: was it better than Iron Man?  I don't think so.  But, as I am more than willing to admit, I'm biased.  I don't like Batman nearly as much as I do Iron Man, but even when taking that into consideration, as a film I liked Iron Man better.  It was more cohesive overall and more focused.  As an adaption of comic book sensibility to film, The Dark Knight wins hands down.  This is still one of the best superhero movies ever made, but I am going to say that we comic book fans are lucky to have TWO such films released in one summer.  And let's be honest, Tony Stark would not only have bagged Rachel by this point, he'd be dodging her calls too.

In closing, The Dark Knight delivers everything it promises and more.  This is the only logical extrapolation of the "Nolanverse," and if you liked the first film you will eat this one up like Mike & Ikes.  It's not good for the kids (hold out for the new The Brave And The Bold for them), but older viewers will be alternately wowed by the action, repulsed by the depravity, and intrigued by some of the moral implications.  This is a superior effort on all fronts, and succeeds not only as a superhero adaption or a genre film, but as a cinematic experience in general.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What Looks Good?

Trying to deal with the opressive summer heat?  Your local comic book shop typically has air conditioning, as well as other activities to take your mind off the weather.

Joker's Asylum: Two-Face #1 -- Continuing the trend of Dent-heavy Batmaterials I am interested in as of late.

Justice Society Of America Annual #1 -- Power Girl takes a trip to Earth-2.  The new Earth-2.  This is either going to be really cool, or involve a lot of trips to Wikipedia.

Nova v.2: Knowhere -- This is what I get for not buying this title right off the bat.  I only have myself to blame.

Caliber #4 -- Soon to be a major motion picture, evidently.  

Journey v.1 -- I was introduced to this series in the pages of The Complete normalman, and I knew I had to track it down.  Sometimes things work out for the best.

Project Supowerpowers #5 -- As more and more heroes are released from their prison, how will the world respond to these time-displaced mystery men?

Yikes, big bill this week from the two trade paperbacks...

So, what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

SDCC Roundup

Ain't technology grand?  Thanks to the power of the Internet, we're now able to follow all the news from all the major Cons without ever removing our butts from out office chairs!  Now that things have been settled for a day, I figured I'd unload some thoughts on dearly departed 2008 San Diego Comic Con.

-- One of the earliest annoucements was Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver on Flash: Rebirth, similar to their work on Green Lantern, and featuring the full-scale return of Barry Allen, apparently.  Needless to say I am very happy about this, along with the implication that there is going to be a larger "Flashiverse" for everyone to play in.  Barry and Jay as the main Flashes, a resurrected Bart running around with the Legion, and Wally playing a supporting role with his family?  It could work!

-- A dissapointment was that there was not a peep made about (Batman And) The Outsiders, including who the new creative team will be.  Perhaps the "big plans" DiDio mentioned at HeroesCon was that they were cancelling the title?  That would suck!

-- Keeping on the Batman theme... "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader" by Gaiman and Kubert == Buy.

-- DC's annoucement of the return of the Milestone heroes plus the introduction of the Archie heroes really made me smile.  For one thing, it's about time for the Milestone guys.  I thought this would have happened years ago, after the successful crossover between Justice League and Static Shock.  How these guys are all going to interact is going to be interesting to see.  As for the Archie heroes, why not?  DC has a long history of mergers and acquisitions to diversify their roster (Charlton, Fawcett, and so on), so the addition of these classic heroes is a good thing to me.  Yeah it could end up crashing and burning, but at the very least it gives Alex Ross more Golden Agey types to play with.

-- One of the most unexpected projects announced was the return of Warlord, with Mike Grell handling the writing and covers!  After the last relaunch of the title a few years back I figured that Travis Morgan and company were toxic to DC, so this came as a very pleasant surprise.  It's too bad that Grell can't do the interiors too, but I understand how it goes if they want the book to be consistantly monthly.  Hey DC, if this sells well, can we get a new Arak, Son Of Thunder too?

-- Similarly, while the revamp of The Unknown Soldier was announced last year at SDCC, the new version of the Haunted Tank was a really cool surprise.  That both of these titles are being housed over at Vertigo should give a pretty clear impression of how DC views (most of) it's War properties at this time, and it's a direction I am more than alright with.  Putting the Haunted Tank in Iraq just makes sense (hopefully the series will focus on the Tank and the battles and not politics -- yes, you know what I mean), and the revamp of Unknown Soldier has had me jazzed for literally an entire year.

-- Over on the Marvel side, not too many annoucements which interested me, honestly.  A lot of Ultimate and mutant stuff, and the only title which sounded interesting (besides the aforementioned War Machine ongoing) was War Of The Kings, the seeming next chapter in DnAs' Marvel Cosmic Saga.  The Shi'ar-Inhumans War?  Sounds good to me!  (Can we please say that the Black Bolt that Hulk punked out in WWH was the Skrull?)

-- Hopefully you managed to catch the X-Men Origins: Wolverine trailer before it was removed.  Looks like a lot of fun in a mindless, summer-popcorn kind of way, which is pretty much all I expected from a Wolverine solo movie!

-- Dark Horse had some interesting projects, including more BPRD spinoffs and the upcoming Solomon Kane miniseries, but I was surprised to see that there was no news about the supposed Kull The Conqueror mini, which was supposed to be released in December.  Maybe it's been pushed back?

--Over at Image, the big news of Kirkman being made a partner actually happened before the Con, but the "Big I" swerved everyone by annoucing Image United, reuniting six of the original seven Image founders for one never-going-to-work right jam crossover, with each creator drawing their own characters in each issue.  Mainly this excites me because Jim Valentino will be working on ShadowHawk again, and apparently it's both the new Eddie Collins 'Hawk as well as the intense original 'Hawk Paul Johnstone.  Unfortunately, no Jim Lee, and no Wetworks from Portacio (who instead is making an original character).  I don't know if this will ever be completed in any sort of timely manner, but it does sound like fun for those fans around my age who remember the "Image Revolution."

So what got YOUR ears perked up from SDCC?

Monday, July 28, 2008

What I Read This Week

glamourpuss #2 -- Dave Sim's schitzophrenic juxtaposition of high fashion, subversive satire, and the history of cartooning continues here, with more focus on our de facto star glamourpuss, plus an appearance by her evil twin, Skanko.  Sim's work has never been straight-forward in my experience, but this is really out there, ranging from glamourpuss talking about how a lot of the world's problems could be solved by beautiful women flying into hotspots and staring down the "mama's boys" until they cracked, to Sim examining how everything from the art styles Jack Kirby and Bruce Timm relate back to Terry And The Pirates.  Luckily, just because it's out there doesn't mean it's not good reading.

Futurama Comics #38 -- Trapped on a primitive jungle planet -- the only have dialup, for instance -- Leela becomes the queen of a tribe of nerds who ship books from the Amazon.  Meanwhile, Fry tries to avenge Bender's untimely destruction by wearing his body as a suit of armor in what may be the greatest parody of Tales Of Suspense #39 ever ("Get out of here, you owls!").  Your usual array of wacky Bongo hijinks and comic book riffs, including the blonde muscleman known as 56K-Zar, king of the jungle.

Two-Face: Year One #1 -- Mark Sable and Jesus Saiz team up to explore the early days of ADA Harvey Dent, working to shut down the mob in Gotham City and dodging allegations that he is the Holiday Killer, all while controlling his own inner rage.  I really enjoyed this story (admittedly, I am biased... I mean, Two-Face) because it ties into what has already come before -- namely The Long Halloween -- while still offering a new and different tale of the young and idealistic Dent.  (There's a funny bit which ties directly into a character's murder in Long Halloween which at first seems contradictory, but in the end makes sense.)  If you like Two-Face as a character then you should definitely check this series out -- stinks that we have to wait till September to get the second issue!

Captain Action: First Mission, Last Day -- In the 1960s, a secret government organization is convened to battle the silent alien menace of the Red Crawl -- the ACTION Directorate and their champion, Captain Action!  A "comic novella" (that is, a text story with accompanying illustration) of the original Captain Action, this reads like a Destroyer novel with lots of science fiction overtones.  Nicieza is game here, and his prose has a nice style to it which plants it firmly in the men's adventure genre, as I said.  The illustrations, provided by Ruben Procopio, are nice pinup style pictures, and provide a nice visual aid for some of the more outlandish images Nicieza describes verbally.  While I know that Moonstone is intending on using the young Captain as seen in their #0 issue as the star of their future stories, I would very much like to see more tales like this one featuring the original, "classic" Captain Action as well.  The only major drawback here is some confusing copy-editing problems in the text that really should have been caught in proofreading.  Other than that, very enjoyable.

The Pick Of The Pile is Two-Face: Year One.  Yeah, probably a bit obvious for me, but I really enjoyed that issue, which is saying something considering that all four of these were very, very good comic books.

So what did YOU read this week?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Adama opens things up with Prez, who I'd vote for.

Rick has a nice showcase of title interaction, which you don't see enough of these days.

Frank shows off his profile of Triumph, a character I am immediately interested in!

SDCC: A new series for War Machine, which is awesome, but it is taking the place of Iron Man, which stinks!

SDCC: Haunted Tank returns!

SDCC: Batman: The Brave And The Bold trailer -- looks like a lot of fun!

And finally, rob! scores a sweet interview with Gerry Conway, creator of Commander Steel and his grandson, and lots of other characters, as well as the mind behind the Detroit Justice League.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Weekly Dose Of Weird!

Weird War Tales #29 -- Talk about your Ghost Riders!  At least these guys don't have their heads on fire.

I. "Breaking Point" -- In the summer of '44, a Nazi Major skilled in torture becomes a victim of his own techniques after a failed coup attempt.  Driven to his wits' end, he begs Satan for assistance, and then finds himself miraculously escaping his captors.  His freedom is short-lived, though, and was all a ruse set up by his former subordinate to drive him to his titular breaking point.

II. "The Hunted" -- Lawrence of Arabia (no, really) accidentaly kills a young Arab and his lover when they surprise him, and the girl damns him to be cursed by Anubis.  Lawrence is later captured and tortured by the Turks, then released to demoralize his troops.  Meeting up with a young jackal he befriended earlier, Lawrence is lead to a Turkish ammunitions depot, which he destroys, as it seems that Anubis has the ability for both punishment and forgiveness.

III. "The Phantom Bowmen of Crecy" -- Five hundred years before WWI, English archers effectively turned the tide against overwhelming numbers of French knights outside the village of Crecy.  The Doughboys are understandably surprised when they receive some sprectral help from those same archers (now ten feet tall, inexplicably) against the Germans on the same hill.

Overall Weird Factor: 1.5 (out of 5).

Not a very weird installment, as the first and second features deal more with psychology, fate, and luck moreso than anything decidedly supernatural.  Still, a better read than the last issue if only because it's all new material.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Discount Bin Finds -- Beowulf, Dragon Slayer #1-6

BEOWULF, DRAGON SLAYER #2 -- 'The Slave Maid Of Satan!'

Every now and again, you come across a random comic book or series which is just so far off the map that reading it is a pure joy.  Something just so beyond the norms and conventions -- for whatever reason and in whatever dimension -- that you find yourself grabbing each issue in rapid succession, wanting to keep the high going, and, once finished, going back and doing it all over again.  I have found such a comic book title.

It is DC's Beowulf, Dragon Slayer, and it is a thing of pure beauty.  I discovered this title thanks to the DC Implosion article on Dial B For Blog (a very informative and useful article on the topic, I might add!) from the house ad for DC's new line of sword and sorcery comics.  I had heard of Tor and Claw The Unconquered, but I was intrigued by this title.  A comic book adaption of Beowulf from DC in the 70s?  At the very least I thought it would be a quaint and amusing read.  I did some research and saw some glimpses into how this series worked, and decided that I had to own it.  At HeroesCon I picked it up, and I am so glad I did. Beowulf in action.

Let me tell you just the through-line story for this title, and then you tell me what you think, alright?  Beowulf, responding to the call from Hrothgar to come to the Mead-hall to fight Grendel, ends up picking up a Swedish barbarian princess (Nan-Zee) and then being sidetracked by Grendel's master, Satan.  Satan, the ever-powerful chessmaster, sends Beowulf on a quest to find the venom of the Black Viper to the West, and then the Zumak fruit to the East, and only then may he fight Grendel.  Traveling West, Beowulf first runs into a band of pygmies, and then has to fight the giant serpent.  In the East, Beowulf runs into the lost tribe of the Israelites, who are currently at war with Vlad the Impaler.  Satan snatches Beowulf and his men back to the Mead-Hall to placate Grendel, whom he promised a battle with Beowulf, but Grendel is unable to finish the job before Satan sends them back to the dessert to fight Vlad.  "Big Evil" is impressed with Vlad, so he kills him and turns him into his new apprentice, Dracula.  This angers Grendel, who now plots to murder Satan, while Beowulf and his crew end up being abducted by aliens at a duplicate version of Stonehenge, and being sent to Atlantis, where they cause it to sink.  Beowulf then heads to Crete and wrestles a minotaur while Grendel makes good on his threat and kills Satan, assuming control of Hell.
Nan-Zee, Swedish Amazon warrior.
Needless to say this is the most heavy metal comic book ever written.

Seriously though, as far as sword and sorcery comics go, this series is a real change of pace in the way it mixes elements from different mythologies together with such reckless abandon.  It gets to the point where each twist and turn is simply accepted by the reader (of course there are aliens!) and you find yourself just wanting to see what outrageous chain of events is going to unfold next.  It's too bad that this series only lasted six issues before being caught up in the DC Implosion, otherwise, it makes me happy to know that somehow, someway, Beowulf and Nan-Zee would have fought in the Crisis.  

The series itself is very silly (no!), and very over-the-top.  Scribe Michael Uslan explains in the editorial pages that he is working from not only the original poem but also various other adaptions of Beowulf over the centuries, trying to create something new and different from everything which has come before.  And while I do not doubt those motivations, it soon becomes clear that Uslan was just cutting loose and having fun, and the work shines because of it; the writer is having fun, and so it follows that the reader too has fun.  The art is also quite nice for the era.  Peruvian Ricardo Villamonte's work is dynamic and weighty, without aping the styles of say Windor-Smith or the Severins, and is a very good fit for the fantastical elements as well.  His depictions of beasts such as Grendel and Satan are memorable and unique (his Grendel looking like something of a mix between a 50s Marvel monster and something from Stan Winston Studios), and his backgrounds range from lush and artistic to harsh and immediate.  
Grendel's gambit pays off.
I picked up the entire series, all six issues, for $5.  And let me tell you, gentle readers, that it is quite possibly the best $5 I have ever spent on comics, no joke.  The amount of enjoyment and pleasure I got from reading these overblown, inane adventures of the Prince of Geats is beyond off the charts.  And with Beowulf recently returning to the pages of DC Comics over in Wonder Woman, now is a perfect time to track down his original adventures.  Anyone looking for a fun short series, looking for something out of the ordinary, or some s&s stuff which is unlike anything else should definitely seek out Beowulf, Dragon Slayer.  You will be glad you did!

(For more info on this series, check out and Beowulf In Comics!)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What Looks Good?

I think everyone is still reeling from all the money they spent going to see The Dark Knight last weekend, but hopefully you saved some cash for your weekly fix, right?

Two Face: Year One #1 -- Just in time for the aforementioned 4 Color Cinema, we get a glimpse of Harvey Dent's origin -- in two parts, naturally.

Captain Action: First Mission, Last Day -- The master of disguise gets put through his paces in this new adventure from Moonstone.

Futurama Comics #38 -- Wackiness abounds in the mind-boggling world of the 30th Century!

glamourpuss #2 -- Wackiness abounds in the mind-boggling world of high fashion lunacy!

So, what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Characters I Like -- Martian Manhunter

Alex Ross's Martian Manhunter

Since everyone's favorite 4 Color Martian was laid to rest not too long ago, I thought this was as good a time as any to express why I liked the Martian Manhunter and was somewhat sad to see him killed off.  My route to being a fan of the Alien Atlas is a strange one, indeed.  You see, when I was first introduced to the character, I had no idea who he was.

My first memory of Martian Manhunter was as a kid, when I had his extremely cool Super Powers Collection action figure.  But, since he wasn't featured on Superfriends, and I don't remember ever reading the little minicomic which came with him, poor J'Onn (along with the similiarly unknown-to-me Dr. Fate) ended up being the scrub jobbers of my superheroes, beaten up by Darkseid real early and left laying while Flash, Green Lantern, and Aquaman saved the day.  So while he got a lot of playtime, I never really knew just who he was or what he could do.

A few years later, when I got into DC Comics for the first time in the post-"Reign of the Supermen" era, I learned about the Manhunter proper, and was impressed by this Martian powerhouse.  He seemed like a character that had tons of potential, and could be cool to read about.  Only, DC never gave me much to read about the character.  And so, he slipped back into my subconcious -- I was always aware of him, but I had so little concept of him beyond his majorly cool appearance and his massively strong powers, that I never gave him much thought, up to and including his solo series, which I have never read.

Martian Manhunter from The Super Powers Collection

That changed when, in 2001, the long-awaited Justice League series debuted on Cartoon Network.  And who was front and center on the show but Big Green himself.  Not only that, but he made a heck of a showing for himself -- showing off his telepathy, intangibility, shape-shifting, and downright brute strength at different times.  Being the outsider of the team allowed him to get a good deal of attention from the series creators, and really have a chance to shine.  He quickly became a favorite on the show for me.

What can be said about the Martian Manhunter that other, more talented folks than I haven't already said?  His ability to work in different genres is astounding, his personality able to shift between inscrutible alien, caring friend, driven hero, and dryly ironic comedian with ease, and the way he spins the "strange visitor from another world" cliche on it's ear is commendable.  It's unfortunate that since his solo series ended in the early 00s that DC has seen little use for the character.  His post-Infinite Crisis miniseries was a failure primarily because it moved away from the known aspects of the Manhunter and pushed him into an angrier role which did not suit him.  Every scene of Justice League: The New Frontier featuring J'Onn somehow became more poingnant, more meaningful, as we saw him try to find a place for himself on a world which is not his and does not want him.  And the Martian Manhunter we saw in Final Crisis: Requiem was the J'Onn I knew and loved, only it was obviously too late at that point.

This being the world of superheroes, J'Onn's death is only temporary at best.  We know at some point or another the Manhunter shall return, as green and beetle-browed as ever.   Perhaps, as I have said, his death is for the best, an opportunity for this character to rest and take a break outside the public eye, to be fully recharged and make his return in a few years to the triumphant shouts and calls of a public who is reminded that sometimes the best heroic character is the one you never even noticed was right under your nose.

This is Martian Manhunter, and he is a character I like.

Monday, July 21, 2008

What I Read This Week

Batman And The Outsiders #9 -- With Metamorpho back from his jaunt in space, the team has redoubled their effort to figure out just who benefits from Jardine's bizarre plan.  Meanwhile, bad things seem to be brewing back in Gotham as well.  As a pure superhero comic book, this title can't be beat; it is much like the original title in that sense.  I don't know if Dixon is going to have time to settle all of these plotlines, but I am interested in seeing where they all end up nonetheless.

Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge #1 -- In the wake of the murder of Bart Allen, the Salvation Run, and the death of the Trickster, Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Mirror Master, and Weather Wizard are in a bad way.  But back in Central City and looking to go off the grid, it looks like things are going to get worse before they get better.  The fan favorite team of Johns and Kollins revisits some of the characters they helped elevate to the top of the food chain in this tie-in to Final Crisis.  It looks like the stuff is really going to hit the fan in this mini, and I am eager to see where it goes.

Flash #242 -- With Iris suddenly aged and getting older, Spin falls to the backburner as Flash tries to figure out how to stop his daughter from being older than he is.  Then it's back to Gorilla City as we learn more about Spin and see Grodd's plan fall into place.  This comic is an odd duck.  It's not particularly bad, but it's not particularly good either.  Too slow and with a lot of exposition about a character who doesn't show up in the issue.  This story has been fun, but just like the fifth chapter in the last storyarc in this title, this piece feels like padding.

Tiny Titans #6 -- Say hello to Supergirl and Blue Beetle and his talking backpack!  Too bad his backpack can't remember to pack his lunch.  More adorable fun from Artie and Franco, including a glimpse into the homelife of Raven and Trigon.

Iron Man #31 -- Things are not going so well for Tony Stark.  He's got a nano-nuke terrorist trying to blow up a small former Soviet Republic, he's got Palladin using anti-Stark technology against him, and a rogue SHIELD agent has activated a doomsday device and delpoyed it against the Helicarrier for revenge.  "With Iron Hands" pushes to it's climax here, with seemingly everything going wrong at once for the Director of SHIELD, but Tony keeps cool under fire and doesn't back down.  Even with Stuart Moore filling in for the Knaufs, I still like this title better than Invicible Iron Man.

Moon Knight #20 -- As Marc Spector lays injured and exhausted in his hidey hole, he flashes back to an encounter with a racket running underground werewolf fights, and into the top dog himself, Jack Russel!  As a stand-alone werewolf fight, this is pretty decent.  But Knight and the Werewolf spend precious little time on screen together, and Jack himself has little to do until the finale.  I get that this is Moon Knight's title, but I was expecting a little more WBN action here considering.  And if this is a flashback how can this be the Werewolf's "reintroduction" to the Marvel U?  The Legion of Monsters story was much better.  Also features reprints of Werewolf By Night #32 and 33, featuring the first appearance of Moon Knight.

The Pick Of The Pile is Rogues' Revenge.  The return of Johns and Kollins, and working on the Rogues for that matter, is a difficult hurdle to overcome.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Via Frank: I carry a badge. My partner is Zook. My name's J'Onzz.

Tell that special someone "I want to hit you with a two-stage rocket arrow" with this Green Arrow postcard thanks to Adama.

Rick shows off this rocking Plastic Man shirt, although it seems to made from some cotton or synthetic material instead of plastic.

rob! showcases this awesome Alex Toth model sheet for none other than Black Manta.

And finally, go check out the trailer to Watchmen! Having never read Watchmen, I have no idea what I am looking at, but it still looks amazing!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Weekly Dose Of Weird!

You wanted the best, you got the best!  *AIR GUITAR!*  GHOSTS #105
Ghosts #105 -- I think I saw this on an album cover once. Only the statue was also surrounded by flames.

I. "Honeymoon In Hell!" -- A French mercenary seduces a poor Sicilian girl, claiming he wants to marry her, but when he reveals this to be a lie, she throws herself to her death. Years later, when the Frenchman returns to marry the daughter of a rich Don, an earthquake drives him into the waiting arms -- and grave -- of his first fiancee.

II. "Plant You Now, Dig You Later" -- A 19th Century English graverobber is being chased by the police, so he pays his doctor friend to make him appear dead to throw them off. His friend agrees, but the graverobber finds his own grave robbed by a rival and his living "corpse" brought to a med student for dissection! Luckily, his doctor friend saves the day... only to reveal his intentions to perform autopsies on the living from now own.

III. "Imagine" -- (Text Story) You're a ranch hand with a mail order bride... when the railroad comes into town, bringing lots of young eye candy, can you do the unthinkable?

IV. "Dos And Don'ts For Ghosts" -- Helpful hints for the deceased.

V. "Wishing Well" -- An amenable ghost has enough of listening to a farmer's complaints, and so he kills him and takes his place -- and his pretty young wife, too.

VI. "My Soul Belongs To Daddy!" -- A divorced couple fight about custody of their daughter, until hubby kidnaps his girl from a hotel lobby. The only problem? He died an hour earlier. Wishing his daughter to stay with him for all eternity, the ghost of her father tries to convince her to drown herself, but is shamed when she actually tries to go through with it, and gives her back to her mother.

Overall Weird Factor: 3.5 (out of 5).

The stories this time are hosted by Squire Shade, who for all intents and purposes is the Gentleman Ghost's brother, wearing glasses instead of a monocle. The letterspage includes a note from Todd MacFarlane, who seems to like undead gladiators. This comic is 27 pages in celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the title.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Unbridled Capitalism: Not Present Edition (Atlanta Comic Con)

This past weekend, my good pal Adama of Dispatches From The Arrowcave went to the local (for him) Atlanta Comic Convention, a smallish show held in a ballroom at the Atlanta Marriott.  We've all been to shows like this before; I used to go to one every 4 months or so at the good ole Ethan Allan Inn in Danbury, CT back when I was in junior high.  Anyway, the upside of these shows is that there's usually a good amount of dealers, and where there's dealers, there's deals to be found!  And so, without even leaving the comfort of my own home, Adama hooked me up with some sweet finds, all from discount bins!

Iron Man: Adam found an issue which has eluded me for years -- #278.  Why is the first issue of the Len Kaminski era so hard to find?  I don't know!  Adama also picked up What If? Special #1 (What If Iron Man Had Been A Traitor?) and Darkhawk Annual #1, featuring Shellhead as a guest star (and also increasing the number of Dawkhawk Annuals I own to two!).

Power Man and Iron Fist: Two issues for the pile, # 72 and #111.  This series is relatively easy to find, so I really need to be more attentive to it the next show I go to.

Black Lightning: I'm mostly done with the first volume, but I have only ever seen two issues of Jeff's second series, so Adama was nice enough to help out, adding #2, 5, 7, 9-10 from the second volume.

Outsiders: Between all the different finds at HeroesCon, my Outsiders collection has grown and grown, but Adama picked up v.3:no.27, meaning that I am one final trade away from having all of the third series.

Magnus, Robot Fighter: Everyone's favorite robot fighting, senator's daughter marrying, skirt wearing 40th century badass was very well stocked at this show, with Adama pulling out some really amazing finds.  Issues #1, 4, 13, 16, 17, and 36 were available, leading me to stare incredulously at the fact that he found so many "early" issues in discount bins.  Yikes!  

Furry Underpants Crowd:  Adama helped me feed my newest barbarian obsession, Arak, Son of Thunder, picking up #1-3, 10, 15, 17-18, 20, 23-25, 31, 33, 36-37, 40, 42-43, and 45, giving me about the half the series in about a month of collecting.  Not bad!  My favorite Marvel S&S series, Kull The Conqueror/Destroyer, snuck in there with #25.

Adama is an Enabler: A running joke between Adama and I is that I do not collect Hawkman.  I like Hawkman, but I have resisted collecting his comics since I don't need another second tier obsession like Iron Man or Flash.  All that has started to collapse now, though, since Adama called me and asked "Hey, do you have the Showcase: Hawkman?"  And so, finally, I caved.  Expect to hear more about this chain of events as it develops.

In summary, damn, what a great little show!  All this stuff cost less than $30, which is really amazing when you sit down and take a look at some of it.  I am very grateful that Adama was willing to dig through and find this stuff for me, and now I am hopeful that the Greenville Comic Con will be presented this fall, so that I can return the favor.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What Looks Good?

Back on track here at the Bunker, so you know what that means!  Time to spend spend spend!

Conan The Cimmerian #1 -- Can't afford to pick up a new ongoing, but this new series detailing Conan's homecoming looks pretty amazing.

Batman And The Outsiders #9 -- Everything is coming to a head in the best straight action title DC publishes, as Dixon gets ready to step down.

Batman: Faces TPB -- Not buying this one, as I own the singles, but a good opportunity to see this awesome Matt Wagner Two-Face story.

Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge #1 -- Johns and Kollins on the Flash?  Pretty close to a no-brainer.

Flash #242 -- Meanwhile, in the main Flash series, Wally faces trouble from all sorts in fronts in what has been a fast-paced and fun story.

Showcase Presents: Hawkman V.2 -- Adama just got me the first volume, so I am tempted...

Tiny Titans #6 -- More adorably all-ages action from Artie and Franco.

Iron Man #31 -- The lone Marvel book on the list, but at least it's a top-shelf one.

So, what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What I Read This Week

Final Crisis: Requiem -- The final moments and the final wishes of the Martian Manhunter play out in this one-shot special.  Tomasi and Mahnke deliver a really solid piece of superhero pathos here, as the brief death and funeral scenes from Final Crisis are fleshed out with a retrospective on the life and times of everyone's favorite Martian.  The ending got me pretty choked up!

Captain Britain and MI:13 #3 -- With the Magic Super-Skrull ready to overrun Great Britain's last lines of defense both mundane and mystical, only Pete Wisdom can unlock their savior.  Continues to improve from the inauspicious debut, with really nice art and a pretty compelling story.  Well, the main plot at least, I still don't like Faiza.  And the new Cap's costume looks an awful lot like the new Captain America's costume, don't you think?

Justice Society Of America #17 -- With the last remaining god of the Third World, Gog, committing blatant acts of peace all over the world, what are the Justice Society and Justice League supposed to do?  Demonstrating once more that heroes just can't handle when things go right, this is a slower, character-driven issue, but things pick up at the end, setting up where the story is turning.  Worthwhile.

Guardians Of The Galaxy #3 -- The Guardians battle with the Universal Church of Truth's faith-powered bishops, while Mantis and Major Victory have their own problems back at Knowhere.  Fast paced and fun, this series is a blast to read without feeling like 4 Color junk food.

Invincible Iron Man #3 -- In the wake of Exekial Stane's latest attack, Tony Stark has to find a way to save his trusty Gal Friday Pepper Potts-Hogan, as well as figure out how Zeke is able to pull off these attacks.  Fraction and LaRocca deliver the goods here, with an unforseen twist involving Pepper which should yield a new type of status for the character.  A lot of this issue is recap for those of us who aren't newbie Iron Fans brought in by the movie (who Obadiah Stane was, how he controlled Stark International, and so on), but it's nice recap.  This remains a solid, healthy spin-off title.

Dead, She Said #2 -- PI Joe Coogan is in trouble.  Found at the scene of a murder by the cops, he is the only suspect in the case.  And did I mention that he is dead and currently rotting?  Wrightson's art is the perfect vehicle for Niles noir-horror cross-breed, with rain soaked alleys juxtaposed with bloodstained floors.  Very enjoyable from both sides of the coin, with a conclusion coming in the next issue; I cannot fathom how the two storylines are going to be resolved.

Iron Man: Legacy of Doom #4 -- Facing down a demon which would put super sentai monster Dora Algos (look him up) to shame, the mystically empowered Iron Man and Doctor Doom have to figure out how to use their new abilities to stop the eradication of the entire planet!  The finale to the Iron Man-Doom trilogy does not disappoint, as Layton, Micheliene, and Lim all turn in dynamite performances, making this series one of the most fun Iron Man stories in years.  Readers who want a sample of old school Iron action should definitely either pick of the back issues or wait for Marvel to collect this one.

Nova #15 -- Trapped on a dying planet, Nova faces some pretty ridiculous odds.  And even if he somehow is able to make it off-world, will he be able to survive the horror of Harrow?  Exciting space opera stuff, with Wellington Alves and Geraldo Burges both turning in beautiful pages depicting Galactus and his giant ship, as well as the true form of Harrow.  The cliffhanger pushes the title in something of a new path for the next storyarc, and I am very eager to see it.

The Pick Of The Pile is Final Crisis: Requiem.  Yeah, sappy of me I know, but the story of J'Onn J'Onzz's death and rememberance were really well handled, and the story stands completely on it's own outside of the larger event.  You should definitely check it out.

So what did YOU read this week?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The... Monday?

Well, there was some mixup here at the Bunker this weekend, and my Links did not get posted on Saturday like they were supposed to.  So I am going to post the links today, then What I Read tomorrow, and be back on track for Wednesday.  How does that sound?  

Rick has turned in an interesting guest piece for the blog Ephemera, about the nature of old comics.

rob! shows off this neato Columbian Super Powers Aquaman.  I was just digging through my Super Powers and Secret Wars toys this weekend, so this is a nice coincidence!

Frank's favorite Martian.  Martian stories, that is!  

And finally, Adama gets all artsy-fartsy on us with his homemade superhero magnets.  

Friday, July 11, 2008

Weekly Dose Of Weird!

I mean, did they NOT see him when they were on the other side of the hill?  WEIRD WAR TALES #28

Weird War Tales #28 -- Just how big is that hill that the giant is hiding behind?!  That doesn't make any sense at all!.

I. "Isle Of Forgotten Warriors" -- (3 Chapters) In the Pacific, American and Japanese forces are constantly trading back and forth a tiny island which seems to be cursed -- whoever controls the island slowy begins to disappear, weapons and all!  The cruel Colonel Deermount leads the "Black Cat Brigade," keeping his good luck charm black cat in line with an electrified collar, the remote control in his swagger stick.  Under his leadership, the Americans take the island, only to discover the secret of the curse -- the "friendly" natives have a method of shrinking men and machines to bug-eye size!  Trapped on a tiny "island" of land, Deermount leads the other shrunken Americans in a raid against the tiny Japanese, and puts down any insubordination with a machine gun.  Trying to use a tunnel dug by the others to escape, Deermount then uses a grenade to attack a queen ant to escape the colony's wrath.  Finding daylight again, Deermount is found by his cat, who is more than happy to use the Colonel as a playtoy before knocking him into the native's tiny electrified fence, powered with flashlight batteries.  

Overall Weird Factor: 2 (out of 5)

No sooner do I say that Weird War Tales didn't have a lot of feature-length tales than I read two of them in a row.  To be fair, this one is a reprint from Adventure Comics.  The final twist is pretty obvious from the start, hurting the overall rating.  Also interesting is that Death narrates the story like a GhouLunatic, but this is more a function of the reprint than anything else.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What Looks Good?

Well, that delay wasn't so bad, now, was it?  What's a mere day when all the Four Color Goodies are waiting for your consumption?

Final Crisis: Requiem -- I'm still peeved about the death of the Martian Manhunter.  But I guess I have no one to blame but myself.

Justice Society Of America #17 -- One thing I like about Geoff Johns' work is that, typically, even with big events his titles always have something big going on.  Like here, for instance.

Captain Britian and MI:13 #3 -- I'm not sure where this is going, but the last issue was good enough to make me want to find out.

Guardians Of The Galaxy #3 -- The craziest book Marvel publishes.

Invincible Iron Man #3 -- Armored action; easy call!

Iron Man: Legacy of Doom #4 -- Last issue featured Shellhead's armor with a plume on the helmet.  A plume!

Nova #15 -- Lesson #2382: Don't mess with the Devourer of Worlds.

Dead, She Said #2 -- Hard-boiled horror?  Sounds about right.

So, what looks good to YOU?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Third Dimension: Tales of Suspense

Comics are not out until tomorrow, thanks to the holiday last week, so here is some three-dimensional goodies to tide us all over. Check out my Iron Man movie toy swag!

Who's a cool exec with a heart of steel? Why, it's the Golden Avenger himself, Iron Man, of course!
As Iron Man, all jets ablaze / He fights and smites with repulsor rays!
Who would challenge the mechanical might of our hero? From deep behind the Iron Curtain, a rival emerges! Straight from Siberia, it's that roughouse Russian Boris Bullski, AKA: Titanium Man!
Mere words cannot match... the AWESOME POWER of TITANIUM MAN!
Both of these toys are quite nifty. The Iron Man Mk.III armor design from the movie is excellent, and translates well to action figure scale. The Titanium Man armor, which is seen in the video game adaptions, is a cool take on the classic green duds that Boris rocks in the 4 Color world. I like the gunmetalish grey with the green trim, which makes the armor a little less colorful for this movie-esque application, but still pretty easily reconizable as T-Man. There's no mistaking him for Crimson Dynamo, or Force, for example. Very happy with both of these purchases!

SHOWDOWN ON THE COFFEE TABLE! Who will survive this titanic struggle?!
If I Must Die... Let It Be With Honor!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Fair Trade: American Splendor: Another Day

Most comic book fans in this country choose to read about the advetures of their favorite heroes overcoming great peril to defeat their foes and save the day.  But what about overcoming the peril of a clogged toilet?  Or defeating a kid you are friends with and nearly putting him in the hospital?  Or going toe to toe with the menace of inane airline regulations?  Welcome to American Splendor.

Written by Harvey Pekar and drawn by... well, lots of people, this trade paperback collects the first four issues making up "season one" of American Splendor as published by DC through the Vertigo imprint.  Each issue collected herein contains several shorts and features (some running a mere two pages, others ten or more), each illustrated by a different artist.  All are in black and white, expect some special "bonus material" at the end reprinted from Playboy, but beyond that it is hard to put a particular theme or tone to the volume, other than the stories tend to be somewhat contemporary in their setting.  And, of course, the fact that all of them are true.

Since this is a collection of shorts and not a running narrative, it makes for quick and easy reading.  Most of the stories are humorous, in the wry way that Pekar's often dour outlook on life typically is, but there is some seriousness in there as well.  One story, illustrated by Dean Haspiel, is entitled "The Battle Of The Vacant Lot," and brought a tear to my eye... while at the same time making he pretty angry with Pekar.  So it's not all goofball stuff here, but the raw and sometimes ugly truth about the human condition for which this series is known.  When Harvey is able to fix his toilet despite his complete lack of mechanical skill, we empathize with him -- who hasn't been in such a situation?  But the skill comes from Pekar and his collection of artists in taking such familiar events and transforming them into appealing comics.

One thing about American Splendor is that if you have read any of it, you know what to expect when you read more of it, generally speaking.  So if you don't like Pekar's work, this volume is not going to change your mind.  But if you enjoy this kind of material, or want to try something off the beaten path that you can still find easily enough at your LCS (it is Vertigo, remember!), then definitely take a look at the new American Splendor.

Monday, July 7, 2008

What I Read This Week

House of Mystery #3 -- Fig discovers that there is a reason why all of these strange folks are hanging out in the House of Mystery, while gangster Joey Spats tells us a story about how there is always a way out of any situation.  Sturges and Willingham are building to a resolution of the first mystery very nicely, while exploring the dissimilar cast of characters in a very appealing manner.  There's some really obvious photo-referencing of King Kong Bundy in the short, but that's okay: it's King Kong Bundy, after all.  Overall this series reminds me of the "old days" of Vertigo when I was a younger man, and that's a good thing.

Storming Paradise #1 -- Chuck Dixon and Butch Guice take a look at a world which was only one misplaced decimal point away, as the Manhattan Project blows up in the US's face (literally), the Allies are forced to undertake the unthinkable invasion of Japan.  A straight-forward historical story, there is a sense of dread looming over the entire proceedings as we know that bad stuff looms on the horizon for pretty much all involved.  Dixon's flexibility shines in this "fictional non-fiction," and Guice's pencils look right at home.  Fans of War comics, or WWII in general should definitely check this series out.

Tor #3 -- Tor finds himself with a band of similar outcasts, and finds companionship for the first time that he can remember.  But a trip into a dark, dank cave finds something much more evil.  Kubert's work has a sort of washed out look to it which suits the prehistoric landscape perfectly.  (In a classy move, DC back-loaded all the ads, so the narrative is not interrupted at all.)  It's simple tale of survival and loyalty, but it's so elegantly handled (and has such a kicking cliffhanger) that you wind up drawn into it; Kubert's world is pretty darn-well realized, and populated with visually interesting flora and fauna.  It is odd, though, that this comic contains a topless woman for almost the entire length, but carries no warnings or anything.  It's not dirty, but still surprising.  If you are looking for something off the beaten path, then check this one out.

The War That Time Forgot #3 -- As the Volcano tribe sets out to rescue the Colonel, they pick up a new ally, but also face new and deadly peril.  Meanwhile, back at the home camp, someone is not showing all their true motivations to the others.  This issue just rocks it from beginning to end, with an exciting mix of humans fighting each other, humans fighting dinosaurs, and intriguing new developments behind the scenes.  This series, like Tor, seems to have nothing to do with anything, and is substantially stronger for that; it's a one-off tale filled with a mishmash of characters from different periods, all working together in a fun and interesting way.  Very fun comic.

The Phantom #24 -- With Bangalla tearing itself apart due to the introduction of the drug Manic into the air and water, the Ghost-Who-Walks tracks down the drug's creator, Ortega, to shut him down.  The biggest Phantom story Moonstone has ever told continues to get bigger here, as the Phantom confronts the first member of the conspiracy which has been destroying his life.  How exactly all of this is going to wrap up in the next issue is anybody's guess, but the adventure has been top-notch so far.

The Pick Of The Pile is The War That Time Forgot, which mixed history and dinosaurs and action and even a little intrigue.  But as a whole this was another great week, with every purchase being very enjoyable to read!  

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

I hope everyone had a good 4th... I did, which is why this will be somewhat abbreviated.

Rick starts us off by bringing in the love.

Frank plays with the What If machine and gives us Manhunter From Mars #300, which I would have dug.

rob! shows off an awesome house ad for the King of the Seven Seas and his arch-nemesis, Black Manta.

And finally, I stumbled upon a pair of vert amusing sword-and-sorcery webcomics this week, so head over to and check out both Sword & Sarcasm and Legend Of Bill!

Have a good holiday weekend everybody!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Weekly Dose Of Weird!

Now here's a dilemma -- look behind or look in front?  This is a new twist!  HAUNTED #67
Haunted #67 -- "Baron Weirwulf" is a great Scary Host name, although I don't know if anything will ever top the horror that is Doctor Frightmarestein.

I. "Strangler On The Loose" -- Detective Joe Smith is tired of his wife's constant nagging, so when an insane strangler escapes from the mental hospital, he sees the perfect opportunity to kill her and get away with it. He frames Strangler Sam down to the smallest detail -- expect for the fact that Sam was captured by the cops an hour before Joe called the crime in.

II. "Death Scene" -- In 1893 London, Modern Wax Museum proprietor Rudolf Klieb specializes in perfectly recreating infamous crime scenes twenty-four hours after they occur, which draws the suspicion of Det-Sgt Harkley of Scotland Yard. When the Sgt-Det finds Klieb sculpting a scene before the crime occurs, Klieb tries to kill him using a post-hypnotic suggestion. Surviving the attempt on his life, Harkley confronts Klieb again, only to find a wax scene of his own murder! Harkley is faster on the draw than Klieb, though, and shoots him dead... and the wax figures suddenly change to reflect the new endgame.

III. "Welcome Home, Darling!" -- Ephraim Meeks and his new wife Melissa return to her home -- the site where she murdered her first husband, Lionel. Lionel is not too happy about this, and returns to haunt Melissa -- who is, of course, a witch! Able to disguise her form in her feline familiar, Melissa tries to murder Ephraim as well, until Lionel's ghost suggests that he buy a dog. A viscious, snarling, attack dog. Needless to say Melissa's spell is soon broken.

Overall Weird Factor: 2.5 (out of 5).

Despite having the Baron on the cover, all of the tales are hosted by Dr. Graves; sensible enough, as all of the stories are reprints fron various issues of The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves. Perfectly enjoyably average mystery comic, with the final segment having the best art (Tom Sutton) and story (Joe Gill). Of note is that this comic also contains not one, not two, but three seperate advertisements to learn mind control. Appropriately, there is also an ad on how to avoid being mind controlled.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Not Blog Ex?

Alan Davis is back!  That's all you need know!  Well, that, and to check out Not Blog X, where G Kendall will clue you in on all your favorite and not-so-favorite X-Books from the 90s.

Excalibur #61

Truth And Consequence  
Credits: Alan Davis (Script), Alan Davis (Pencils), Mark Farmer (Inks), Glynis Oliver (Colors), Chris Eliopoulos (Letters).

Deep in space, the Phoenix (and Rachel) stirs from her healing slumber and runs smack dab into Galactus, who has begun to feed on an inhabited world.  Phoenix will have none of it, and the two begin an intense battle, slinging huge amounts of cosmic energy at one another.  Meanwhile, back on Earth, at Braddock Manor Captain Britian and Nightcrawler train (with Cerise creating armor for Nightcrawler so he doesn't get hurt).  Cap is unfocused, angry about Sat-Yr-9's escape and raving about wanting revenge for Courtney, which upsets Meggan so much she storms off.  At the same time, in London, Micromax is kidnapped by a supposed agent from a competing radio station.  

A little later, we catch up with Brian and Meggan in the Caribbean, and after talking about his feelings and how he has been treating her, Brian proposes marriage.  While that is going on, in the caverns below the Manor, Kitty tries to make heads or tails of the changes, which Feron refuses to help with.  Out of nowhere, Widget pops in again, once more disappearing before Kitty can figure out his message.  Out in space, the battle having raged for some time, Galactus shows Phoenix the damage -- the inhabitants of the planet have become collateral damage of their battle, and her supposed desire to save them has been forgotten in Phoenix's lust for power.  Galactus tells her that he serves a purpose -- reclaiming the energy of worlds which have lived their lives, but the Phoenix simply sucks up energy from those who have yet to live -- the unborn.  Back on Earth, Kitty is contacted by Alistaire Stuart, claiming to have found out who blackmailed his sister, before he too is kidnapped.

Continuity Notes
Micromax is working as a DJ even though I am pretty sure he became a British agent in an earlier story.  Brian and Meggan's marriage wouldn't happen until more than fifty issues later, in the series finale at #125.

It's so good to have Alan Davis back!  Immediately, the older plotlines are reintroduced (a welcome return after basically being ignored for four months), and the plots for the remaining stories in his run are planted, with the kidnappings as well as Widget's continued re-appearance.  There's a lot of little stories here, which makes the summary pretty confusing, but it's handled well in the comic, with a full page of Phoenix and Galactus in-between each other subplot to remind us that, yes, they are still fighting.  Also, I was happy to see Brian's rage about Courtney being addressed; obviously, it didn't get much attention at first, but his response here fits the character -- and his proposal to Meggan is a good step in the larger personal arc for Cap.  The art is typical Davis, which suits this series much better than Kollins, and runs the gamut from cutesy (Kitty and Feron) to nearly Ditko-esque (the fight between Phoenix and Galactus).  Overall a substantial improvement from the fill-in issues, even if it doesn't do all that much beyond offer an epilogie of sorts to the Phoenix issue from a few months earlier.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What Looks Good?

There's something about a holiday week at work, when you know it's going to be a little shorter, that makes you want to just go out and spend money.

House of Mystery #3 -- The Mystery deepens!  So far this series has hit on all cylinders out of the gate, and I am really looking forward to the next twist.

Storming Paradise #1 -- I only got into War comics in the last few years, but this setup (the US being forced to invade Japan in WWII) would have convinced me even if I wasn't.

Tor #3 -- Adventure from One Million Years Ago!  All you people complaining of "event fatigue" need look no further.

The War That Time Forgot #3 -- As if soliders vs dinosaurs wasn't badass enough, let's add gladiatorial combat to the mix.

Wow, what a weird week!  

So, what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

4 Color Cinema

The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk

As if going to HeroesCon and dropping entirely too much money on comics is not geeky enough, Adam, Joe, and I simply had to head to the cineplex on Saturday afternoon to catch the newest Marvel offering.  And after the desensitizing effect of the Con, with the massive and nearly overwhelming stimulation overload, how would a mere motion picture stack up?

The verdict: Quite nicely!

The story is pretty straightforward: on the run from the US Army after a gamma experiment goes wrong, Dr. Bruce Banner is hiding out in Brazil, trying to divine a cure for the beast hiding inside him with the help of the mysterious online contact "Mr. Blue."  A freak occurance puts General Thunderbolt Ross onto his scent, and Banner is only able to avoid capture by the Black-Ops team lead by aging warhorse Emil Blonksy by Hulking out.  Making his way north, Banner tracks down his old flame and colleague (and the General's daughter) Betty Ross, needing data from the original experiment to create an antidote.  The General has other plans, proposing using a mothballed genetic serum on Blonsky to turn him into a super-soldier, making him faster, stronger, and able to bounce back from injuries which would kill a lesser man.  After an explosive confrontation at the university where Betty works, she and Banner are on the run again.  They end up in Manhattan, where they meet Mr. Blue -- a research professor by the name of Samuel Sterns, who has been experimenting with a blood sample Bruce sent him, creating not only a potential antidote but also lots of other samples for research.  When the General and the Army catch up to them, Bruce is arrested and taken into custody, while Blonsky undergoes a transformation which makes him something not human.  Can Banner use the rampaging force he has inside him to save the city and stop Blonksy?

The Incredible Hulk is not going to win any Academy Awards for it's screenplay or the acting.  It's a very no-nonsense action movie, with lots of setpieces to keep the popcorn munching crowd satisfied.  But that's not faint praise, because it does the action scenes very well, making for a very fun, fast-paced ride which is seriously entertaining on both a fanboy and plain-ole summer movie levels.  

Ed Norton's Bruce Banner is a riff on the Bill Bixby version of the character, a haunted, lonely man who has been on the run so long that being homeless appears second nature to him.  He gives a credible sense of intelligence to the character -- not that Eric Bana didn't in Ang Lee's film, but Bana always struck me as being almost too cool for Banner.  Norton's take is nerdy, albeit slightly, but nerdy nonetheless.  I'm less enthused about Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, as I thought that Jennifer Connelly was very well suited to the role.  Tyler has some good scenes though, especially one with her father, and she does a good job with the character, so I cannot complain too loudly.  

The villians are similarly mixed, performance wise.  William Hurt is alright as General Thunderbolt Ross, but again, I really liked Sam Elliott as Ross in the earlier film, so this change was one I was not entirely on board with.  Hurt does play him as more of a villian than Elliott did, which is dictated by the screenplay but not unwelcome nor uncommon.  His performance is believable, and if Elliott had not played him in the earlier film, I'd have no problem with his place here.  Now, Tim Roth as Emil Blonksy I can get behind.  Updating the character out of his Cold War origins (Blonksy is now a Russian-born English soldier on loan to Ross instead of a Soviet sabotuer), Roth portrays Blonksy as a goal-oriented badass, a man who knows how to get things done but is finding himself in the winter of his useful span as a soldier.  His drive and dedication are admirable, but clearly he takes everything personally; after seeing the Hulk in action, he becomes a man obsessed.  In both his human and monsterous forms, Blonksy is a viable and legitimate threat to Bruce and Betty, and you know he would stop at nothing to hunt them down, and makes for one nasty villian.

Technically the film is very sound.  I liked the effects in the last film, but you can see a natural progression here.  The Hulk looks a little more fluid and naturalistic (if not realistic), and I cannot overstate the importance of the motion capture work not only for the full body movements, but also for the facial reactions and emotion, which brings a deep humanity to the Hulk (and inhumane cruelty to Abomination).  Speaking of which, the advances in mo-cap tech from the first film is noticeable; when Abomination moves, we see the same gait and style that we saw from Blonksy earlier in the film.  It's a little thing, but it helps sell that it is Blonksy, and not just a creature.  Hulk himself is ripped and jacked, like a linebacker who's been shooting every form of performance enhancing drugs and just let loose - a real monster, which I liked.  (Lou Ferigno's voice acting, while limited to 3 actual lines and lots of growls, helps here as well.)  

There's a few flaws, as there typically is for this type of film.  While generally things move very quickly, there's a handful of scenes between the university and New York which drag a little bit.  In retrospect, I don't know if the scenes themselves are slow paced, or if my over-anxious brain just wanted more Hulk Smash -- probably the latter.  Another aspect which was surprising, if not necessarily bad, was the intensity of the action.  Hulk's first appearance is that of a monster straight out of a horror movie, and the first big clash between Ole Green Genes and the Army is rough, with tons of punishment being heaped on our hero.  The clash between the Hulk and Abomination is a brutal one, surprisingly more violent than I would have predicted -- so be careful and think about if you want to bring the kids along.  Understandably that does not apply to everyone, but it is something to consider.

All things considered, I found The Incredible Hulk to be a substantially enjoyable and entertaining film, more on target I think with what Marvel fans expect from a Hulk film.  It's not perfect, but it was exactly what I was hoping for it to be, and thus it really satisfied me.  If you haven't had a chance to check this out, I'd heartily recommend it.
(Yeah, I know, which was better, this or Iron Man?  As a straight action film, Incredible Hulk is superior, but Iron Man is a better movie all around.)