Tuesday, June 28, 2011

28 Days Later: London Calling (2010)

28 Days Later... was a major force in taking zombies mainstream after decades on the fringe, for which it deserves much credit and blame. It was essentially a greatest hits collection of moments from the Romero films mashed up with Lifeforce, which often irked me, but was quite good at times. Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead straight up ripped off 28...'s opening, and I'm sure machete swinging Selena had a lot to do with the creation of katana-wielding Michonne. I guess 28 Days Later... expected payback for one of its few original spins, and decided to bring Selena to Dead's medium.

The first issue with translation is that Danny Boyle's film sold out Selena in the third act, turning her into a damsel in distress to be rescued by Jim as part of his heroic arc. Michonne has never been compromised, even during her rape and torture, so she remains the more fearsome and intriguing character. Second, sequelitis strikes. The comic alludes to events from the first film, and the assumption is that the film's other survivors aren't back for a reason that goes unrevealed. Maybe tragic, maybe mundane, but you can't help wondering where Newt and Hicks are. Third, as referenced, Selena is less herself and more Ellen Ripley. The pragmatist that would chop up her own friends once infected seems to have as her motivation for returning to England a lost love and need for psychological closure. I'm just not buying that. It would have been easy to carry on in England with the film's survivors, since there was room in the conclusion for such elaboration. While I think it's great to have a black woman as the lead figure in an action-horror franchise, I cannot buy into the premise that Selena would willingly put herself back in such a harrowing situation, especially given the stakes and slight resources displayed here.

The scenario put forth is that Selena has been hired as a veteran contributing to an unauthorized investigative party led by a war correspondent looking for the truth about the situation in the U.K. The party consists of barely realized stereotypes: the naive bleeding heart unprepared for the horrors to come, the dismissive tough guy who can't follow the little lady's orders, the member with a personal grudge against our heroine, and the intrepid reporter who puts principles above practicality. You know these fuckers are going to be ground up like the meat they are in short order, and the emotional impact is about the same as prepping a hamburger. Selena has plenty of opportunity to be the know-it-all badass, and she looks especially cool when the light catches the lens on her face mask just so, but it's strictly tropes around here.

By the end of the first trade, which collects four issues for ten bucks, all the pieces are in place to do a long form return visit to the physical journey of the first film. The hurdles of characterization and logic have been overcome so that one of the same characters can do the same stuff again. A desired status quo is restored. If you want your zombie comics to feel like super-hero or action vehicles, the creators do a serviceable job of providing. If you want to supplement The Walking Dead with more conventional writing and art on glossy paper in full color, here you go. The covers by Tim Bradstreet and Sean Phillips are also rather nice. Just don't expect to feel anything while going through the motions.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger Trailer (2011)

A few months back, I raked a teaser trailer for Captain America: The First Avenger over the coals, so I wanted to take a moment to retract some of my criticisms in the face of the final movie trailer. Cap's probably my favorite super-hero, with only the Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman seriously in the running. To date, none of these characters have exactly shined in live action. At least Wonder Woman had a reasonably faithful if thoroughly silly TV show with a appropriately likeable actress. Every single Cap outing to date has pushed the boundaries of embarrassment and transitional liberties, even by the dismal standards of comic book adaptations. While the budget was clearly a vast improvement, the early footage and promotional materials for this try were kind of clunky, so my expectations have remained low throughout the production. Only recently, and most specifically with this extended trailer, am I finally getting the sense this might be the Cap movie I've waited my entire life for.

It starts to turn around with the line, "I could do this all day." You see, the earlier trailers seemed to make a point of portraying Steve Rogers as a nebbish. Peggy Carter punking Steve by shooting at him to prove the shield's resilience was a prime example, but Chris Evans seemed to fumble his way through every shot, even as Cap. Seeing Steve with his dukes up, standing against an aggressor despite his obvious physical disadvantage, is the Steve Rogers I know. Leave that Clark Kent bullshit for other franchises.

Next, Evans' New York accent is more prominent in later trailers, which I greatly appreciate. A lot of people seem to work under the impression that Cap is some cornfed Midwesterner, instead of a hardscrabble kid from an Irish slum. He's an urban, proactive, political hero who punched Hitler back when the guy still had a fan base stateside. I'm finally starting to see that guy in Evans, and a willingness to dive onto a grenade to save his fellow soldiers doesn't hurt.

Another positive is that there's less preaching from Stanley Tucci's Erskine about how great Steve Rogers could be, and more of Captain America showing that potential. Instead being the butt of jokes, Steve shows wit of his own. Even Tommy Lee Jones managed to elicit a chuckle out of me. Instead of a bunch of isolated scenes and bland stunts, there's a greater sense of the overall story, which seems to be more than by-the-numbers origin stuff. Cap's on trains, Cap's on planes, Cap's riding a hog ahead of a massive explosion, Cap's tethering toward a mountain castle, bursting through a window. Finally, there's a sense of scope, and the Star Spangled Avenger kicking ass on a global stage. Instead of stiff, staged looking action, there's multidimensional action spectacle and some motherfuckin' shield slinging. As much of a believer in period authenticity as I am, it does not hurt that all of this occurs with Tool's "Forty Six & 2" playing.

Most importantly for me, I finally feel like Captain America will be more than a late arriving addition to the Marvel Studios heroic roster. I've been afraid that he'd be played as an underwhelming stuffed shirt, obligatory in setting up the Avengers film. After Blade, Spider-Man, Thor, Daredevil and even Tim Roth on the Super Soldier Formula in The Incredible Hulk, I wasn't confident the filmmakers could show what Cap brings to the table. While still not as acrobatic as I would like, the movie seems to portray a human fighting machine who is constantly throwing his muscle behind highly effective body blows. Even more than Hemsworth's Thor, Evans' Cap hits the hell out of people with a clear aim to disable on initial impact. Basically, Captain America looks like a bad ass, it's about damned time, so fuck yeah I'll pay to see it in the theater!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wednesday Is Priced To Sample For All I Care #112

The Darkness II: Confession. Free Comic Book Day Edition
Fathom Primer
Kirby: Genesis #0

The Darkness: Confession, Free Comic Book Day Edition (Image/Top Cow, 2011, "Free")
I gave The Darkness an issue trial when it first came out, because that was during the period when Garth Ennis was whoring himself out to whoever paid his rate for a handful of issues. This series was no different, and I was over Marc Silvestri by that point as well. As I recall, they turned the writing chores over to "Random Irishman," and the book limped along on Top Cow's equivalent of Marvel Zombies for a while. It's a bit of a zombie title, because it gets canceled and relaunched every few years, typically on a cycle of moderate name brand talent followed by the bullpen placeholders until the next relaunch. I actually read that discounted trade of the first Phil Hester arc and never got around to reviewing it here. It was okay, but it starred a hitman named Jackie Estacado who is anguished over powers that both save and ruin his life, and I don't give two shits about that.

This sampler was a straggler amongst my crop of FCBD orders, and I think it might have even swapped characters/titles in the meantime. I only paid about a quarter for it, and it's not like I was hot to read an Artifacts primer, but I was still sort of like "oh, this? I guess it was basically free. Whatever."

At first I thought this was going to be a fully (digitally?) painted(ish) recap of the Darkness' origins, which I was only passingly familiar with, so the details weren't an issue for me. I couldn't help noticing how repetitive elements were, like Jackie getting killed twice and adventuring in hell twice while attempting to accomplish some arbitrary goal. For four pages and no good reason, the artist and style changed to very much that of the house, slapping any semblance of prestige across its filthy mouth. When I got to the end, I was kind of "huh-- they didn't touch on all the mythology built around the artifacts and the universe Ron Marz has been building up for years. Peculiar." Finally, it dawned on me that the video game preview in the back of the book was related to the main story being a tarted up "comicization" of the first video game. I guess waiting four years to bother with a sequel requires this sort of thing. Credit where due, this kicked the ass of those Radio Shack comics I thumbed through in the '80s. As free goes, this was awesome. It can go away if it begs for any pocket change, though.

Kirby: Genesis #0 (Dynamite, 2011, $1.00)
The creators try to trade on both Jack Kirby's legacy and their own with the Marvels trade dress, but I think we're all on to the Dynamite bait and switch by now. Alex Ross will contribute some designs, concepts and covers, while Kurt Busiek will knock out an opening mini-series, and then some other guys will carry the ball to an offside tackle. Busiek was already one of those guys when Topps Comics tried to sell tired, old and gaudy "new" Kirby creations in the early '90s through the power of polybagged chromium trading cards. This time, Busiek is approaching this like Astro City, and even has an excellent new Brent Anderson in Jack Herbert. There really isn't a lot to go on in these twelve pages, and the fourteen pages of sketchbook material only serves to give me my dollar's worth. Maybe if these guys stick with the project for the long haul, and don't try to use it as an IP factory like Project: Superpowers, it might amount to something.

Michael Turner's Fathom Primer (Aspen, 2011, $1.00)
This was apparently the week of people associated with Top Cow Studios tricking my ass. I figured this was another instance of an artist getting his childhood buddy to write the script of his first creator owned property, only to have actual literate people point and laugh at the hubris, then hire some hack to re-script a "remastered" reprint of the first issue. It isn't that all of that isn't true, but Scott Lobdell also serves the purpose of managing to transition a mini-series' worth of issues into a single comics' narrative, which when factored for period decompression, means the story content finally matches the format. Stuff happens at a rapid clip, characters come and go in the blink of an eye, but it works surprisingly well at bringing readers in and up to speed. Four pages of text cover the following two mini-series, all to establish where a new one begins. It still isn't my cup of tea, but for a buck, you might like to satisfy any interest in the property you might have.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Frank Review of "Deadgirl" (2008)

The Short Version? Zombie fuckers.
What Is It? Horror.
Who Is In It? Nobody.
Should I See It? Hopefully not.

There is a certain type of movie, with American Psycho being my go-to example, that I respect without in any way enjoying. These are movies that are solid technically, with fully functional screenplays and sometimes downright exceptional acting performance. However, they are also miserable, joyless slogs, or else they leave me feeling unclean or maybe just dead inside, and I don't want to see those movies again. Deadgirl is one of those films.

The lead characters in the movie are a pair of moronic losers whose pastimes include ditching school to break into an abandoned mental hospital and smash shit. One day, they find a nude woman wrapped in plastic and chained up in a cellar. One of the guys, out POV character, wants to release her and call the police. The other wants to fuck her from now until she dies off on them. The second boy wins, through violence and intimidation sure, so from that point on the "hero" isn't one, despite some good intentions and inept interventions. The major complication is that the rape victim is also one of the infectious flesh eating dead, with predictable consequences.

You should be able to plot out the rest of the movie in your head. Will the scumbag teenagers "share" their zombie fuck doll? Will there be some deviant sex acts related to necrophilia? Will someone get their dick bitten off? Will there be a doomed romantic subplot? Will things progressively get worse until there's a mound of corpses and remorse? Will there be a black humored twist at the end? Yes, yes, dear god yes.

Aside from the subject matter, there's nothing wrong with the picture. It gets to all the places it needs to go with the correct performers involved. It's a steady cam indie, but it's slick enough for your high definition television. There is some explicit female nudity, but it isn't all titillating, and the sex is similarly off-putting. I don't think it's transgressive or leering enough for the deranged viewer, but it's too disgusting and drab for the less adulterated. It's an intentionally mean-spirited and dark film with unlikable characters. It may be your bag, but not mine, and my humor tends to be as gallows as they come. This is base for the sake of being base, and will likely play only to the types of creepy, charmless, unimaginative assholes it portrays.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wednesday Is Any Day For All I Care #111

Drums #1 (2011)
Rotten Flips Out / Zombies vs Cheerleaders Flips Out #1
Star Wars: Jedi—The Dark Side #1

Drums #1 (Image, 2011, $2.99)
At first this book annoyed me by wasting two pages on foreign language ritual, but then I recognized it was building toward a dramatic reveal that properly utilized a double page spread, so I backed off. Then the rest of the book was just exposition, slim characterization and plodding plot progress. It isn't that it's bad writing, because this would be a fine first 10-15 minutes of a screenplay. It just makes for shitty comics, because a two hour low budget movie costs me a buck or less to rent, so I expect a hell of a lot more from a $3 comic than to support your pitch to a producer.

Rotten Flips Out / Zombies vs Cheerleaders Flips Out #1 (Moonstone, 2011, $2.99)
I liked the done-in-one thirteen page western story involving two investigators tangling with Indian savages (sorry, I mean Native American cannibal savages) on the track of a zombie curse. Two pages of bookends linked the first tale to a second, involving a modern high school football game overrun by the hungry dead. That one was a total amateur piece of shit unfit to be published in color on glossy stock. Better to have put out a $1.50 Rotten sampler than to close out the flip book making the reader question whether they gave the first story too much credit based on its company.

Star Wars: Jedi—The Dark Side #1 (Dark Horse, 2011, $2.99)
I was extremely impressed by how a story with a name as generic as Jedi—The Dark Side could somehow manage to surpass it in blandness. This book is more Prequel Trilogy than the Prequel Trilogy. It's about possibly the single least interesting protagonist in all of Star Wars, Qui-Gon Jinn, and the padawan he trained before Obi-Wan Kenobi during a time of unparalleled galactic peace. Admittedly, the padawan is a little prick, foreshadowing the poor judgment Jinn would later display in taking on Anakin Skywalker, and I'm already so bored with that whole line of thought that I can't even be bothered to finish my point. I imagine this is what it's like to hand a super-team comic to a non-reader. They're all "what's this about, nevermind, I don't give a shit."The art is by Mahmud Asrar, the guy who was a promising talent on Dynamo 5 before jumping ship to over-commit at DC and is now on his downward trajectory back to the bush leagues. Besides a garbage pain-ted cover, his interiors display minimum adequate levels of detail with brief flashes of what he could have been. Please remind me to stop reviewing these things, even if I do get them for less than a dollar.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft (2008)

Joe Hill is Stephen King's kid, and decent enough not to trade on the family name, even though both parents and a sibling are famous authors. He doesn't really need the nepotism, because he's inherited King Prime's ability to really draw a reader into the characters' less than desirable situations, without the hindrance of constantly writing about demonic greasers or writers from Maine. Hill does focus in on maladjusted adolescents, although more The Body than Carrie, and he's great at bringing in light fantasy elements to balance out the grim horrors. Artist Gabriel Rodriguez contributes to that balance, as his basic style is very cute and friendly, so you really feel it when somebody gets an ax buried in the back of their skull.

After an enormous personal tragedy, the Locke family relocates to (okay, okay) Massachusetts, which sure is in New England. Anyway, the kids are left to roam a gothic house full of keys and doorways to all sorts of peculiar places. Ghosts of the past haunt the family, and some are quite hungry for those keys, so that the kids live in constant peril. Even during the "getting to know you" characterization and slow build, those threats hang over the proceedings, urging the reader on, and keeping them worried about their fast friends.

Ever the bane of modern storytelling across all mediums, Welcome to Lovecraft is just the first of multiple volumes. There's enough resolution in this book to allow it to stand on its own, but it's hard not to resent the lingering questions and unfinished business. Things also look to get progressively more fantastic, so there's some danger of coming unmoored from the fairly realist setting here. Regardless, I'm reviewing the book that is, not my concerns about what comes after, and recommending that you try it for yourself. The hardcover is especially winning, with its inbound cloth bookmark, but this is enough of a page turner that I doubt you'd need it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wednesday Reaching Flushpoint For All I Care #110

Flashpoint #1 (2011)
Moon Knight #1 (2011)
R.E.B.E.L.S. #28 (2011)
Static Shock Special #1 (2011)

Flashpoint #1 (DC, 2011, $3.99)
DC Comics have been releasing information on their BOLD. NEW. DIRECTION. for a week or so now, which looks to have been a cut and pasted from the Image Comics section of a 1994 Diamond Previews Catalog. Scratch that, some Image pages, but a lot of stuff going past Marvel into the cesspool of off-brand bandwagon super-heroics. Anyway, this causes me look back at the event that will set the dominoes falling toward DC Implosion 2013, a book so funky I decided to pass on the remaining issues despite offers of getting them for 50-75% off cover price, Flashpoint. It isn't that the book is bad, just overwhelmingly middling. The art is by Andy Kubert, of Los Brothers Kubert, whose omnipresence at Marvel in the '90s made it that much easier to steer clear of the line. The Kuberts have a gift for taking the coarseness of papa Joe and giving it a smooth Image veneer, stripping it of all its soul or individuality. Now there's a Kubertbot for each company, which is appropriate, since we've spent a decade under Dan Didio experiencing Marvel Comics and Lesser Marvel Comics.

Geoff Johns used to be one of the shining exceptions at DC, but it seems at some point he sold his soul to become a wheel, and now he's just churning the worst kind of pandering shit out. Blackest Night had its moments, but I can't think of a point in time since his first run on The Flash that Johns has actually impressed me. Fuck you fandom, but Green Lantern: Rebirth was a pile of pretty shellacked shit, and I've set my historical record for squatting on Brightest Day in this very column (if something some fuckwit writes irregularly on a free blog qualifies as such.

Anyway, for such a big deal, the first book is rather flat. Five pages are wasted bringing me up to speed on Barry Allen in as oblique a fashion as possible, so that even though I know this stuff, I still feel like I'm missing something. Barry just wakes up in Scumbagville, assuming this even is Barry, because I understand lookalike Professor Zoom is behind this mess. It wouldn't be his first amnesiac episode. It doesn't matter, because the whole issue is devoted to barely introducing characters who will turn up in dozens of spin-off mini-series until the implosion of the entire universe (in text as the Post-Crisis status quo, more broadly as DC's publishing line by 2013.) I give it a year before the rapid back-peddling and forced resignations begin, and it'll all stem from this tepid little number right here. This is sort of like the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which only lit the fuse toward Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the true birthplace of modern Japan. Tumbling tumbling...

Moon Knight #1 (DC, 2011, $3.99)
I'm no thief, so one of my regrets in this life was pretty much strong-arming and stealing a bag of Moon Knight comics from one particular friend. I don't know what made me do it, and I got my comeuppance when another friend line shelves in his room with comics stolen from me around the same time, but the deed remains one of my black marks on the big scorecard in the sky. I loved Moon Knight's costume so much I stole it too, for a series of illustrations about my own highly derivative "creation" produced when I probably should have been paying better attention to sixth grade as a whole.

My point is, while I have some irrational fondness for Marc Spector dating back decades, he is himself a rip-off of the Bronze Age Batman with added eccentricities, which is why he rarely commands top talent or lasts very long in series form. This time, the MPD super-hero drew Brian Michael Bendis, who moves units, and Alex Maleev, who moves Bendis' jock without the faintest hint of tooth. I'm not exactly a fan of either, but Maleev does manage to evoke Bill Sienkiewicz. Unfortunately, it's the hacky Sienkiewicz as inker on corporate bullshit, as opposed to the Bill Sienkiewicz who used to offer a bitchin' aping of Neal Adams before getting just experimental enough to impress the fanboys. That was preceding New Mutants, when he started drawing faces with a ruler.

There are two "what a twist" moments in the book, neither of which are remotely surprising or effective. No one, especially a Moon Knight fan, should ever be deluded into thinking the Fisting of Khonshu matters in the grand scheme of things. What that leaves is an ugly, obvious, massively decompressed book that can be read in full in the time it takes to unzip and release your manhood, much less the actual duration of pissing. Who'd have thought anyone, especially Benis of the gratuitous dialogue, would ever beat Jeph Loeb in a race to minimize your time/dollar ratio in comic?

I don't know why this book inspired so many dick jokes in this review. I guess I just did it to entertain myself. No one else was going to do it, apparently.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #28 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
Woo-hoo! The one monthly title keeping me a DC Comics reader is finally canceled! From here on out, look forward to random hit jobs, rather than a slog like twenty-eight reviews of the same tired fucking title. R.E.B.E.L.S. just never came together did it, even after over two years? The book cycled through about two full casts, with Vril Dox the only constant. It took two men to write a character as clever as Dox for most of his L.E.G.I.O.N. years, so it's no wonder Tony Bedard was never fully up to the challenge. What paints him a fool is the addition of a second Dox, Lyrl, whom he completely ruined by simply rewriting a second below par Dox (meaning both Doxes were Suxy, not that Vril was any better or worse than Lyrl.) There were only a few solid issues where I felt like Captain Comet, Adam Strange, Lobo and Starfire got a chance to shine, and at least I can credit Bedard for finally talking me into halfway appreciating that last one. As has become a staple of the series, the conclusion was a rushed affair involving stuff you either saw coming from a mile away or totally bullshit deux ex machina. Strings are hanging everywhere, and even the art of Claude St. Aubin seemed less polished than usual. It's all spilled milk now, and the series left the DC cosmos in a better place than it was found. Bygones and be gones.

Static Shock Special #1 (New England Comics Press, 2011, "Free")
I was never able to get into the Milestone Universe, like Milestone characters are still having trouble getting into the DC Universe. It isn't for lack of want, but there are some reservations, and some things just don't work out. Static also is a lovable teen hero, and archetype that's never resonated with me. That said, this issue's story is more about Static's wrongfully imprisoned uncle, and how people move on with their lives after an injustice. It's a good little tale by Felicia D. Henderson, with some of the best art I've seen from Denys Cowan I've seen in years, no doubt aided by able inkers Rodney Ramos, Prentis Rollins and John Stanisci, each of whom have proven themselves noteworthy in a thankless profession over the years. There are also some sweet bonus materials, including a comic story eulogy for Dwayne McDuffie by Matt Wayne & John Paul Leon, text ones by Michael Davis & Derek T. Dingle, plus a visual one by Eric Battle. There are additional pin-ups by Keron Grant, Jamal Igle, Derec Donovan, and amusing construction paper job by John Rozum.

Bound in the middle is an eight page "35mm Special Issue" advertising the movie Super 8 with its own faux Alex Ross cover on the appropriate stock, with interiors by Peter Tomasi and Tommy Lee Edwards. Taken as a whole, this project is so packed with goodness, it should have been on everyone's pull list.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Frank Review of "American History X" (1998)

The Short Version? Racism is Bad, but also, shamefully, kinda hard core.
What Is It? Drama.
Who Is In It? I Am Jack's Prelude to Tyler Durden, John Connor, Captain Sisko, Papa Gellar, the mom from the Vacation movies.
Should I See It? Yes.

Having seen four of the five performances nominated, I'm going to say Ed Norton should have won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his alternately chilling and affecting work on this film. Derek Vinyard is a young man so devastated by the murder of his passively racist father that he falls prey to a surrogate actively pursuing a Neo-Nazi agenda, for which Norton serves as a poster boy. Derek helps build a small army of white supremacists and leads them in hate crimes, until a particularly harrowing confrontation forces the character to reevaluate his direction. Edward Furlong plays younger brother Danny, following in Derek's footsteps as best as he can, and giving the actor's best performance to date. The supporting cast is fantastic in roles of varying size, including Beverly D'Angelo, Elliott Gould and Guy Torry.

Stacy Keach is rather arch as Vinyard's mentor, chewing the scenery in his relatively small part, but he's fun as the primary villain of the piece. In fact, in a movie about recognizing shades of gray, every one of the "bad guys" is drawn as unrepentantly heinous. From Fairuza Balk's vile Venice Beach Eva Braun to Ethan Suplee's loathsome slug of a grunt, you're either misguided but easily swayed to righteousness, or you're possessed by demons that will never be exorcised. Ass-fucking convicts are all hopelessly corrupt and preening enough to telegraph their inclinations, while the African-American adversaries are a black mass of interchangeable aggression units. The only people of color are the magical Negroes sent to guide Derek to the multicultural promised land. It's hard to not see an anti-racist film as being racist itself when the only two blacks not on the business end of Derek's hatred can be written off as "the good ones." Avery Brooks tends to grate as Dr. Sweeney, the double PhD who'll bring the fight to racism with his gravitas, his multi-pronged social work, and his assignments of papers with pretentious names like "American History X." Brooks comes across much in need of a cape and tights, and serves as the figurehead for the more preachy, Afterschool Special elements of the film.

The parts of the movie that work best are the black and white flashbacks, which focus on the wrongs committed by Derek, their motivations, and his slow journey toward recognition. The color segments are more about recriminations, broad gestures, and sermonizing. They basically catch the dummies up with the message, just in case there's a segregationist camp that reads the film as being about a promising radical tragically cut down by the manipulations of the Zionist machine or whatever. Despite its flaws, American History X works very well, and I'm sure that if I bothered to put together a list of my favorite movies, it would make the top twenty-five. It was one of the first DVDs I owned, and I'm hopeful we'll see a more robust edition someday that addresses the different cuts of the film, backstage drama, and the movie's surprisingly lasting impact thanks to a slow, steady crawl into the American popular consciousness.


  • Deleted Scenes There are only three, but one is quite long and very relevant. I wonder how many more there would have been in Tony Kaye's cut.
  • Theatrical Trailer Yes, it's that barren of special features. It's a pretty crumby trailer too, with cheesy music and emphasis on action and preaching. They do their best to hide how much of the footage is in black and white, as well.
  • The Cast & Crew Those little text pieces they used to do on DVDs before people reminded the makers that they hate to read.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Wednesday Is Free A Little Longer For All I Care #109

Elric: The Balance Lost Free Comic Book Day Edition
Locke & Key: Free Comic Book Day Edition
Magic the Gathering: Path of the Planeswalker II Preview
The Tick: Free Comic Book Day 2011

Elric: The Balance Lost Free Comic Book Day Edition (BOOM! Studios, 2011, "Free")
I was introduced to Elric via a fantasy book cover art collection on the back end of grade school. A long haired albino with a black sword that ate souls was a pretty easy sell in my young mind. I was always seeing ads for First Comics' adaptations of Michael Moorcock's immortal hero(es) as well, but for some reason I never bit. I think it had to do with an inborn loathing of high fantasy, even the seemingly cool kind. Finally reading an Elric comic, I realize I missed my shot, like how if you don't go through a punk stage by the time you're 25, it'll always be three-chord noise to you. It's a dude dressed in black chopping monsters to shit, with a series of pin-ups to let the new readers know that this is just one of many incarnations of the same being. If you're already a fan, it's probably ten pages of boss teasing, and there are no flies on Chris Roberson or Francesco Biagini. I'm just too old for this kind of thing. Oh, there's a nice three page overview of Elric's past comics from other publishers, which I thought was gracious, plus a five page sketchbook.

Locke & Key: Free Comic Book Day Edition (IDW, 2011, "Free")
I had a loaner copy of the first hardcover collection of this series, so I decided to read that before this. The book was good-- the free comic not so much. The art by Gabriel Rodriguez is still really nice, but the motherfuckers went cheap and just dug out the one issue of the series they could find that was suitable for all ages. Sure, there's a text piece inside the front cover to catch you up, but that just hampers your enjoyment of the trades. Without in-story context, it's just one long action sequence with nineteen pages of zero to little dialogue and about nine splash pages. I appreciate trying to reach as large of an audience as possible, but little kids don't need to read this series, and I can't see an adult being turned on by this misrepresentation of the normal contents.

Magic the Gathering: Path of the Planeswalker II Preview (Wizards of the Coast, 2011, "Free")
Back in the '80s, TSR tried their own short-lived comics/modules produced in-house that sat on Waldenbooks shelves collecting dust. I never read any myself, because they looked pretty shitty. I wonder if they were as marked by incompetence as this new shit from the famous CCG manufacturer I tend to forget is still in business. For starters, it's a twenty-eight page painted story with five artists, so fuck consistency. The artists are all pretty good, but they're also the only people involved with any experience. See, problem dos is that they lettered this thing amateurishly on a computer program in all caps using basic fonts like Comic Sans. When lettering slaps you across the face, you've really fucked up, because that's supposed to be one of the "invisible" arts. The words that fill those captions and balloons aren't too miserable, but the story is basic fantasy tripe involving the avenging of dead parents, kids raising themselves into barbarian toughs, and characters making stupid choices to serve the plot/"fate." One of the painters is Christopher Moeller, who's also a pretty good writer, so it's a shame the three WOTC staffers responsible for this thing hadn't let him take a pass at the script. At best this is promotional product, and at worse a vain indulgence.

The Tick: Free Comic Book Day 2011 (New England Comics Press, 2011, "Free")
NEC taught Wizard Magazine how to manipulate a speculative market, so there was a time when The Tick seemed poised to be the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Tick followed TMNT into animation, toys, and live action, but never came close to the same degree of success. There's no shame in that, because phenomena doesn't come around every day, but reading a Tick comic decades past its prime leaves me scratching my head. There's a seven page original story that introduces a number of bad, bad puns as characters, and then fifteen pages of Marvel Handbook style text biographies that belabor the terrible jokes. There's also a selection of ads for collections of the Tick comics hardly anyone read that informed the bios, plus trades of failed spin-offs from the early '90s. This stuff is so dated and dubious, it leaves me as clueless as a modern kid being exposed to Laurel & Hardy. "Dad, why are you making me watch this old stuff?"


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