Friday, June 28, 2013
I received a review copy of HOLY TERROR from NetGalley, and thank God I did, because it spared me from spending thirty bucks on this mess. That's the best word for it: A mess. When I was a kid, I was so taken by Miller's DAREDEVIL that I spent hours creating my own comic books. Which were filled with page after page of fighting, and such dialogue as "Ughhh!" and "JESUS CHRIST!"
Reading Miller's HOLY TERROR is akin to seeing one of my childhood attempts at creating a comic book published. It's moronic, overly simplistic, insanely Xenophobic, and offensive to the senses on every level. HOLY TERROR began life as HOLY TERROR, BATMAN!, and was either ditched by DC Comics, or repurposed by Frank Miller, depending on who you believe. I can only imagine DC seeing this mess and fleeing in a terror of their own. The book seems like an overly earnest attempt at expressing the anger and anguish of 9/11 as channeled through a prepubescent, mildly retarded boy. Miller's SIN CITY style is again on display, and the art is at times fiendishly complex and savagely beautiful, but again, and I can't say this enough, it's in service of a story that seems like it was written by a disturbed, angry child. Don't waste your money.
Like, HELLBOY good.
Which is to say, it's phenomenal.
I've always like weird westerns, so THE SIXTH GUN immediately grabbed me. I became a fan of Cullen Bunn after reading about half of the first issue. You can tell when a writer has "IT", and Bunn has "IT" to spare. I pick up everything with his name on it, with no reservations whatsoever. Artist Brian Hurtt has been confined to the pages of THE SIXTH GUN for the past few years, which is great news for his fans, but it's probably kept him from being the breakout star he deserves to be. His artwork is amazing, as is his storytelling ability. There are a lot of people who can draw pretty pictures, but few who can use those pictures to tell a linear, clear, cohesive STORY. Hurtt's art, aided and abetted by Bill Crabtree's wonderful color work, is a feast for the eyes. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
THE SIXTH GUN tells the epic story of a sextet of cursed guns, each with a different supernatural power, and the various factions that are in pursuit of them. THE SIXTH GUN, BOOK 5: WINTER WOLVES finds our heroes, Drake and Becky, trapped in a frozen hell by a Wendigo, while their ally Gord assembles an unlikely rescue team. Cullen Bunn is slowly unraveling the history of the cursed guns, and it's really shaping up to be one of the most exciting comic-book mythologies this side of HELLBOY. I'm assuming that Bunn has an honest-to-God ending in store for this book at some point, and while I can't wait to read it, I'm also in no hurry for it to get here. (As good as this book reads in trades, I think that the eventual one-volume omnibus will be one for the ages.)
Fans who love SANDMAN, HELLBOY, and PLANETARY would do well to give THE SIXTH GUN a whirl. I guarantee that you will not regret it.
Oni Press provided a review copy.
Monday, June 24, 2013
USAGI YOJIMBO, BOOK 27: A TOWN CALLED HELL is mainly concerned with Usagi's trip to the titular town, where a pair of rival gang bosses are engaged in a turf war. Usagi brings the war to a clever end, but his solution is soured by the machinations of the winning gang boss, which sets Usagi on a collision course with another Samurai named Kato. The "TOWN CALLED HELL" saga bookends the collection, and in between those stories are a few stand-alone tales, which run the gamut from humorous to horrific. (I'm really loving the Horror angles that Sakai has been bringing to the series lately.)
USAGI YOJIMBO, BOOK 27: A TOWN CALLED HELL collects issues 124-131, and includes all of the covers, story notes from Stan Sakai, and an introduction by Geoff Darrow. Highly recommended.
Dark Horse Comics provided a review copy.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
I didn't really "get" a lot of Grant Morrison's run on NEW X MEN when I was reading it in monthly chunks roughly a decade ago. By the time I got to his four-issue wrap-up story, "Here Comes Tomorrow!", I was totally lost. This is clearly, like so much of Morrison's work, not meant to be read in little bits and pieces. Reading all 42 issues at once, you can really see and appreciate all of the little clues that he scattered throughout the story, and it's a much fuller, more rewarding reading experience.
There might be spoilers ahead, but the story is over a decade old, so you really can't complain too much if you DO get spoiled, right?
Morrison starts off with a bang, introducing Cassandra Nova, Charles Xavier's twin Sister, who died In Utero after a life-and-death Fetus fight with her Brother. Morrison builds his new Big Bad up to legendary status immediately, and he pretty much throws the whole decades-long status quo up in the air and lets the chips fall where they may. Xavier outs himself as a Mutant, and reveals the true nature of his school. Or does he....? Morrison gives readers the ultimate Magneto story (Which was immediately undone by Marvel about a month after Morrison left NEW X MEN...), shakes up the dry Cyclops/Jean Grey romance, mutates poor Beast even further, and makes Emma Frost an A-List character.
Morrison made a bold choice to limit his cast of characters to Cyclops, Professor X, Jean Grey, Beast, Emma Frost, Wolverine, and Xorn. I've always found Jean, Cyclops, and The Professor to be among the most boring fictional creations ever, and the fact that he made them interesting speaks volumes. Not everything in the book didn't work for me....there's a lot of "Grant Morrison" stuff that went right over my head and made my eyes glaze over- The same type of pseudo-science that made THE INVISIBLES and FINAL CRISIS almost unbearable is on display here, but it's kept to a kind-of minimum. The artwork runs the full spectrum, highlighted by Frank Quitely's grotesque-yet-spellbinding faces and forms, and the amazing linework of both Ethan Van Sciver and Phil Jimenez. Low points include the unfortunate pairing of John Paul Leon and Bill Sienkiewicz, and the hideous art of Igor Kordey. I can barely draw a stick figure, so I generally don't complain about art unless it's REALLY distracting, and Kordey's work is. I considered it an eyesore over a decade ago, and it's no better now, especially scattered in amongst art by Quitely, Van Sciver, and Jimenez.
NEW X MEN OMNIBUS is an amazing read...some of the best X-Men work ever produced. (Still can't compete with the Claremont/Byrne/Austin era, though!)
Saturday, June 22, 2013
Or, more shitty than usual.
There will probably be spoilers ahead...beware. Page down.........
Brad Pitt's long-delayed, troubled production of WORLD WAR Z has finally arrived, and much like last weeks MAN OF STEEL, and IRON MAN 3, and STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS, and THE HANGOVER 3, and EPIC, I'll probably forget all about it in a day or two.
Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane, some kind of retired United Nations worker (Either they never really explained what it was he did, or I just didn't register it at all.) who is drawn back into service when the Zombie apocalypse breaks out. That's pretty much the whole film. Gerry and his family are scooped up and taken to safety on a fleet of United Nations ships in the middle of the ocean, where Gerry is basically told "Stop this outbreak, or we're gonna kick your family off this boat."
And so begins Brad's trip to Korea. Where's he's told by David Morse in a cage "You wanna know what's happening? Go to Israel." So he goes to Israel, where he gets a lead that sends him to England. It's like a huge-budget "Where In The World Is Zombie SanDiego?
There are some neat set-pieces, but they both occur REALLY early on in the film, and then it's mainly people talking. And talking. And talking. Then the movie looks like it ends, visually, but there's a voice-over helpfully telling us that it's not over, it's just the beginning. Considering how much this movie cost, and all of the reshoots and rewrites and test screenings, compared to the mostly empty theater I saw it in, I can pretty much guarantee that it IS over.
Brad Pitt does a good job with what he's been given. I feel like he's almost exactly the same in every film, but he has enough charisma and likeability that it doesn't really matter. No one else comes out of this as anything close to memorable or compelling, mainly because there really IS no one else in it. There's Lane's Wife and kids, who mainly exist to be a passive-aggressive threat to be held over him, and his former U.N. boss, and there's also LOST's Matthew Fox, who has a few brief never-really-shown-in-full appearances that suggest he was a casualty of the rewrites and reshoots. Those rewrites and reshoots give the film a disjointed, cobbled-together feeling, so it never gelled with me. My final thought, when the credits rolled, was "Well, that was a fucking mess."
WORLD WAR Z was partially written by Damon Lindelof, who, after PROMETHEUS and STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS just needs to stop. Really, please STOP. It was directed by Mark Forster, who directed QUANTUM OF SOLACE, which was fucking dreadful, so maybe he needs to stop, too. There's a really conspicuous absence of blood, which is mind-boggling in a film about a massive, world-ending Zombie apocalypse. That this film is rated PG-13 is also mind-boggling, as is the fact that idiots were bringing REALLY little kids in to see it. Which is probably what the studio was shooting for when they finished editing it into it's bloodless final cut: Get a kid-friendly rating, so we can get as many people in on opening weekend, before the bad word-of-mouth starts.
I've seen worse films, and there are those two really good action scenes to recommend, but that's about it. Stay home and watch the GOOD Romero Zombie films (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD, and DAY OF THE DEAD...skip anything after those three!), and maybe throw in Zack Snyders remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD and Danny Boyle's 28 DAYS LATER to get your fast Zombie fix in....You''ll be much happier.Or else read Max Brooks' novel, which you can order below.....
Sunday, June 16, 2013
As always, there will be spoilers, so don't blame me if you read this before seeing the film. Not that there's anything in the film that could possibly surprise you.
If our attention-span-starved era MUST have reboots of every film franchise every decade or so, do we have to waste years of filmmaking time, to say nothing of hours of filmgoer's time, seeing the same damned origin every third or forth film? Yes, the Richard Donner SUPERMAN film opened over three decades ago, but it's still fresh in our collective minds. (This is still not as bad as having to suffer through another retelling of Spider-Man's origin barely a decade later. And wait until DC reboots Batman in a few years.....)
OK, on to the film: Wow, was Director Zack Snyder trying to out-do Donner with an massively long opening sequence on Krypton? This was practically a prequel film in itself. Jor-El and Lara give birth to little Kal-El (As we will discover later, this is the first natural childbirth on Krypton in centuries.), just as Krypton is ready to explode. And since Krypton is about to explode, what better time for a military coup? Enter General Zod.....
But alas, by firing up the ship, he's given himself away to Zod and company, who, freed from their Phantom Zone imprisonment, have been scouring the Galaxy looking for Jor-El's baby in order to use him to give birth to a new Krypton. (In a very MATRIX-y sequence in the beginning, Jor-El stole "The Codex", a messed-up looking Kryptonian skull that Kryptonians use to clone babies. Remember how I said there hasn't been a natural childbirth on Krypton in ages...?) Well, Jor-El stashed The Codex in baby Kal's spaceship before he was rocketed off to Earth, and Zod needs that skull back to......to....um...start up a new Krypton! This plan seems very flawed.....if Zod gets The Codex, and manages to clone a slew of Kryptonian babies, what is he going to do with them? Zod and his buddies don't seem like the types to sit around raising babies for decades. This never became any clearer to me, but I just went with it.
And that's basically it. Zod wants The Codex, which Jor-El dissolved and incorporated into Kal-El's body, so in order to facilitate this mass baby-farming scheme, Zod needs Superman's blood. So they fight.
For, like, an hour.
Now, granted, this is what every Superman film has been missing: Big-ass fights.
Basically, all we've seen until now is Superman arguing with bald guys. I mean, the only fight scene we got in SUPERMAN RETURNS was Superman getting his ass kicked by the guy from HAROLD & KUMAR.
So MAN OF STEEL brings the action.
I was really looking forward to seeing what the offbeat Michael Shannon could do with a character like Zod, and he's quite good, but I felt he was outgunned by his sidekick, Faora, portrayed by Antje Traue.
The World Engine has two parts: One in Metropolis, and one in The Indian Ocean. They're maybe going to shoot lasers down into the Earth until they meet in the middle...? I don't know...it was never fully explained. It's just bad news, that's all you need to know. The one in Metropolis is REALLY fucking the place up, so that might be where you want to bring the fight, not the one sitting out in the middle of the ocean, but what do I know?
"This is a long film....do we really need to have TWO machines? How about we just have ONE, and we lose this Indian Ocean shit"
Superman, of course, beats his machine, and returns to Metropolis to totally rip off the end of a 25 year-old issue of MIRACLEMAN, which I'm shocked that no one has called them on yet.
MIRACLEMAN was written by the legendary Alan Moore, and in the fifteenth issue, Miracleman engages his former kid sidekick in a battle that sees London almost completely flattened, and most of it's inhabitants brutally slaughtered by the bad guy. It even ends with the same "Tortured good guy snaps the bad guy's neck" moment. Alan Moore will start bitching any moment now, I guarantee.....
When the credits started to roll, I asked my Wife if she liked it, and she said, emphatically, NO. (It's always interesting to see what she thinks of the Super-Hero films that I drag her too.....she loved THE INCREDIBLE HULK, CAPTAIN AMERICA, and IRON MAN 3, and proclaimed THE AVENGERS to be "The best time I've ever had at the movies.") For my part, I liked it, but, a day later, it's really not leaving much of an impression. It's a dour, gloomy film, and Superman really isn't that character. I would have liked a little bit more fun in the picture. A gloomy Batman is fine...not a gloomy Superman.
Henry Cavill does a good job with what he's given, but he has almost zero charisma, and no chemistry whatsoever with Amy Adams' Lois Lane. I don't think Cavill can pull off what Warner Bros. wants him to, which is anchor a massive DC film universe.
I think Amy Adams is the cutest thing going. I could watch her all day long, in anything. (I even married a girl who looks like her!) She made a good Lois Lane, but again, zero chemistry with her leading man.
I also really missed John Williams' Superman theme. Hans Zimmer contributes an excellent (Also dour...) score, but there's no real theme for Superman. That's something that's really been missing from the current spate of Super-Hero films...a theme worthy of Williams' Superman or Elfman's Batman.
Overall, I'd give MAN OF STEEL a solid 6 or 7....it's like fast food: It fills you up, but it's nothing memorable. It thankfully ends the stranglehold that the Donner film had on the character. I mean, I loved SUPERMAN: THE MOTION PICTURE when my Grandfather took me to see it in 1978, but even as a kid it seemed campy and hokey. But I don't necessarily feel that Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer are the people to entrust with the keys to the DC cinematic kingdom. Nolan's Batman films, while praised for their "Realism" are ridiculously far-fetched and overrated. Plus, the guy can't shoot a fight scene to save his life, and grim-and-gritty is not the road to travel for every Super-Hero. I am one of the few people who actually enjoyed GREEN LANTERN, and I think MAN OF STEEL could have used some of that films humor and sense of wonder.
Friday, June 14, 2013
The book is a collection of transcribed recordings of lunches that Welles and Jaglom shared at Ma Maison between 1983 and Welles' death in 1985. (I still remain unconvinced that Welles was aware that Jaglom was recording these lunchtime chats. Editor Peter Biskind explains early on that Welles, per Jaglom, was aware of it, even winkingly encouraged it, as long as he never saw the recording device, and it was never spoken of during their conversations. Which seems a rather convenient thing. I have a nagging feeling that Welles may not have been aware, but, at this point, that's splitting hairs.)
The book starts with a lengthy introduction by Peter Biskind (EASY RIDERS, RAGING BULLS and DOWN AND DIRTY PICTURES), who gives an overview of Welles' career, and details how he met and befriended Jaglom. From there, we jump right into the lunchtime conversations, which cover everything from filmmaking to Hollywood gossip. Welles, who by this point in his career was virtually broke and unable to secure any meaningful kind of work, comes off as playful, funny, bitter, savage, kind, generous, petty, and maybe even deluded. (Jaglom was helping Welles, who had a terrible reputation for walking away from films before he had fully completed them, shop around some new projects.) I would have liked to see some current input from Jaglom regarding how real these projects were, in hindsight. Jaglom keeps telling Welles that they're close to putting a deal together, and Welles keeps saying how much he's been writing, but was this sincere on both men's parts, or was each telling the other what they thought they wanted, or needed, to hear?
Welles' stories about old Hollywood are hilarious and biting, even though I suspect that many of them need to be taken with some HUGE grains of salt. Reading about him holding court at Ma Maison, you can practically see the gleam in his eye as he rudely dismisses Richard Burton, or calls over a Waiter to inform him that it was his ever-present Dog that just farted, and not him or Henry. While the book was informative, and often hilarious, it was tinged with the sadness that comes from knowing one's best days are far behind them.....
The Publisher provided a review copy.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Being so backed up in my reading makes buying comics a real gamble.....I drop and pick up books based on the creative team, and when Denise Mina took over the writing chores on HELLBLAZER, it seemed like a good time to jump off of the book, sight unseen. I decided to sit out the Peter Milligan era, as well, although I did pick up the arc that featured Shade, The Changing Man, a book that I dearly loved back in the day. I'm happy to say that it doesn't seem that I've really missed much by skipping all of those Milligan issues. John Constantine is now married to a twenty-something named Epiphany (Piff, for short), and he's a hell of a lot older (Unlike other characters, John's creative teams have kept him aging in real time, so he's now in his early-to-mid-sixties.), but he's still the same trouble magnet he's always been. Seeing as this is John's last hurrah under the Vertigo imprint ( Vertigo is being phased out by DC, in favor of returning all of the company-owned characters to the "New 52" universe, so we can now enjoy a younger, watered-down Constantine exclusively. DC hates mature, thought-provoking stuff! Away with you, old people!!), I was hoping for an epic finale that would give John a grand sendoff before he was rebooted into oblivion.
This ain't that grand sendoff.
Don't get me wrong...It's a big collection, and it's certainly not terrible, but it's not exceptional, either. It's filled with the same mediocrity that's marked much of Milligan's output over the past decade or so. The stories are competent, but as a finale to a long-running series (Around a quarter of a century!), it's a massive letdown. The stories contained in BLOOD AND CIGARETTES could have fallen anywhere in John's chronology. There's no sense of an ending coming, it's just a series of unrelated adventures stacked up on each other. The finale left me baffled, especially considering how new-reader friendly the bulk of the book was. I literally have no idea what they were trying to convey on the last page.
Not a terrible book, and it's certainly worth the cover price, considering how many issues it collects. But Vertigo really missed the opportunity to give John a worthy last adventure, though.
DC/Vertigo provided a review copy.
Sunday, June 2, 2013
Ed Hannigan's Comics,
for ten bucks, shipping included. You can't beat that deal. You can also buy original art on the site.
Go check it out.