Saturday, April 30, 2011

1977 "Help A Hero.." NCG Merchandise Ad



Vintage "The Superhero Shop" ad from the Joe Kubert school.

Help A Hero..Give Him A Home! From Mego!

The Teen Titans Wonder Girl, Speedy, Aqualad & Kid Flash with Isis for just $4.19!

The New Wonder Woman Fashion Doll! 12 inches tall! "Each doll comes complete with Wonder Woman's own costume and her Army uniform as Diana Prince!" Only $10.95!

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Frank Review of "Boy Eats Girl" (2005)

The Short Version? Not-quite-dead boy loves girl at zombie high
What Is It? Zomromcom
Who Is In It? Um... Samantha Mumba?
Should I See It? Maybe



I didn't care for the English film Shaun of the Dead, which was finally starting to get funny when it became serious and then outright tragic. Still, a lot of people adore the film, and it was an international success, so a year later the Irish took a stab at making a zomromcom with Boy Eats Girl. The good news is that it has an inventive final act gore fest at times reminiscent of New Zealand's zombie romantic comedy classic Braindead, but otherwise it plays more like the 1999 flop Idle Hands. That U.S. effort wasn't at all funny (except maybe a few one-liners from Seth Green,) and it wasn't remotely scary, so its enduring legacy is the largest quantity of (barely legal) Jessica Alba cheesecake committed to film (although Into The Blue beats it in quality.) Well okay, Kelly Monoco topless in KISS make-up while getting orally serviced before being murdered by a disembodied hand was pretty memorable, too.

Irish pop star Samantha Mumba takes the Alba role, and while a lovely girl, her best known U.S. release was probably the ill-fated Time Machine remake with Guy Pierce a decade back. Sadly, Mumba is very stingy with the flesh, aside from a five second shower shot that dissolves into an undead fellow's back without earning so much as a PG-13. There isn't a lot of comedy here, either, but the zombie mayhem is very nearly no-holds-barred, quite a nice turn from such a slick looking picture clearly targeting the girls with its high school romance. The boys are generally prettier than the girls, in fact, so lads in the audience may be a bit put out waiting for the violence to rev up about halfway in. Unlike Idle Hands though, it delivers to both segments. Where Alba's interest in Devon Sawa was very Judd Apatow in its being a nerd boy fantasy, David Leon sells his affection for Mumba, and it's believable when he captures more than just her attention. It still isn't a great movie, just serviceable in the weekend cable offering sense, but it can be had very cheap (I got mine in a four pack for $5,) and it is decent enough even in its off moments. Just be prepared for a mass of contrivances in the set-up, and no addressing of consequences in the wrap-up.

Extras?

  • Making Of Very short and entirely shallow.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Wednesday Is Old And Cheap For All I Care #104

Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom #1 (2010)
Hundred Penny Press: Ghostbusters: Displaced Aggression #1 (2009/2011)
The Moth Special Edition #1 (2008)




Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom #1 (Dark Horse, 2010, $3.50)
During my earliest days reading comics, my sole source of back issues and "off-brands" were supermarket polybagged three packs. I learned pretty quick to avoid the Gold Key packs, but I think I got suckered into one with the promise of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Gold Key and its former partner Dell ruled comic book sales for much of the mid-century thanks to licensing and unimpeachable wholesomeness. Dell made Silver Age DC seem uncouth and daring, so you can imagine how dull their attempts at action properties were. Gold Key comics still looked and read about the same in the late '70s as they had for decades, so even the Buck Rogers tie-in was a snooze, and the only thrill I got were ads for a lone super-hero offering, Dr. Solar.

I wouldn't learn about Turok or Magnus Robot Fighter until years later, but because those were innovative and well-regarded series, I had always extended their prestige to Solar. I didn't read a comic with the character until the Valiant revival by Jim Shooter, Barry Smith, and Don Perlin. I was really impressed by the level of grisly detail in Solar's origin story, not realizing how heavily it was borrowed from Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen. I haven't read those stories in twenty years, but since I generally prefer Shooter to Alan Moore, I'd probably still get a kick out of the rip-off. After Shooter was run out of Valiant, the company didn't have a firm grasp on how to handle such a powerful character, so they worked out about nine different directions to send the character to fuck right off.

I was really excited by the prospect of Shooter returning to the Dell characters Valiant had once licensed for a second chance at rival, especially since he was coming off an under-appreciated run on Legion of Super-Heroes. Instead, it triggered a series of disappointments. The first was finally becoming aware that Doctor Solar was created in 1962, making him the last of the pre-Marvel radioactive heroes, and a pretty egregious swipe of Dr. Manhattan's prototype, the vastly superior Captain Atom. Instead of the brilliant Steve Ditko aided by journeyman Joe Gill, Dr. Solar was created by Paul S. Newman, Guinness record holder for most prolific comic book writer of all time, and artist Bob Fujitani. Unlike Stan Lee, Newman wrote an enormous amount of material without ever hitting much of a stride outside of Turok, while Fujitani was an unsung Golden Age great who was fair to middling through to the Bronze Age.

Dr. Solar's eighteen page origin story is reprinted here, and as the third disappointment, you'll wonder how it filled eighteen pages. For unrevealed reasons, Solar wears sunglasses all the time, and he got his powers through atom age sabotage. That makes him seem like a cross between Daredevil and the Incredible Hulk, but the execution is more like a cross between John Oates and Art Garfunkel. Their characters are almost entirely lacking in personality, emotion or motivation. Dr. Solar is doing science stuff because his first name is Doctor. Seriously, his own girlfriend calls him Dr. Solar exclusively. Said girlfriend is also a scientist, which she uses to stand in front of a runaway train, because what other use would a woman have in a '60s comic? There is also a bossy character, a fellow scientist, and an evil scientist. I don't know why the evil scientist is evil, except that he's forced to become a saboteur under penalty of death at the command of an evil mastermind, who is himself motivated by pure evil. I don't even think he was a commie or anything, although he did resemble Blofeld. The good scientist gets killed by the sabotage, while Solar turns into a green Captain Atom. For reals, Solar's disembodied voice orders his boss to construct a radiation proof room and a containment suit, exactly like Captain Atom. If Captain Atom was the Cable of 1959, Doctor Solar is like the fucking Battlestone.

Besides being derivative and lame, the first Solar story has a total "suck it" ending. Doctor Solar is still trapped in an isolation chamber, Dr. Girlfriend is still completely helpless, the saboteur is still on the loose, and the evil mastermind is still being an asshole. Then we flip back to the new story, and it somehow still manages to be worse. Breaking the first law of good comics, Solar tells his origin to another character over a handful of panels. I mean literally, literately, tells the origin in dialogue balloons. It's essential the same as the Valiant origin, with just enough changed to avoid any legal entanglements. It's also a clear sign Shooter feels he's already told that story, and if you didn't read it the first time, you can swallow his extra long, pock-marked pecker. There are a couple of totally generic comic book characters making trouble, but that's okay, because they're supposed to be figments of a base imagination given life. It's metatextual, pretentious and lazy as fuck, straight out of the M. Night Shyamalan playbook. There are a couple of shitty fight scenes, a supposedly genius super-hero who doesn't come off as all that smart, and a whole lot of talking about how the whole will eventually be greater than the sum of this crappy part. The art by Dennis Calero is stiff, muddy, and almost as carefully drab as his Gold Key predecessors.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that after years of delusion, I finally realized that the only time the Man of the Atom doesn't totally suck is when he manages to succeed modestly while totally imitating other characters, and he couldn't even manage that here.



Hundred Penny Press: Ghostbusters: Displaced Aggression #1 (IDW, 2011, $1.00)
Two movies I was assured were the absolute shit on the playground were Gremlins and Ghostbusters. The former sold out the time I tried to see it at the dollar show, but it was one of my first ever video rentals. I totally wasn't into it, and wasn't wowed until the sequel a few years later. I did manage to get into Ghostbusters after what seemed like forever to leave the first run movie palaces, and I was totally just okay with that picture. It was generally cute and had its funny moments, but it's no classic. I thought the sequel was alright thanks to lowered expectations, but others revile it, based on some bizarre widespread chemical effect that makes people to this day deluded into not realizing they're comparably mediocre. Ray Parker Jr. was a pied piper to you bitches.

I also caught both Filmation's Ghostbusters and The Real Ghostbusters, and while one was loads better than the other, I still don't give a shit about no Slimer. I assume IDW takes its cues from the cartoon, because their take on Peter Vinkman is less Bill Murray than Ash from Army of Darkness, although association with either is giving way too much credit. Vinkman is also in the old west, which turns out to be a lot like the last Back to the Future, but with more ghosts and nowhere near enough Mary Steenburgen. That's right, I just laid a Mary Steenburgen on this shit. Yes, it's a negative review.

This is the part where I was suppose to continue ripping into the plot, but aside from the mohawk'd future chick Ghostbuster turning the Echo-1 into a time machine to find the temporally displaced founding members and just fucking stab me in the face with an icepick if I go any further than that. I feel like the meat in an extra juicy fat geek sandwich with grilled umbilical cheese. Where's the god damned M.A.S.K. revival, huh? You fuckwits won't be happy until you fetishize every last dogshit bit of nostalgia, just like your useless hippie parents. The guy who wrote this used to write shitty X-Men comics in the '90s, and the guy who drew this doesn't want to hear any talk about backgrounds or likenesses. I could have bought 2/3rds of a pack of Zingers instead.



The Moth Special Edition #1 (Rude Dude Productions, 2008, "Free")
You're a moderately successful industry veteran who finally decides it's your time to self-publish. You fail to notice that the names of most publishers outside of Diamond's Premier start with an "a," to keep them as close to the front of the Previews catalog as possible. You enlist the writing services of a guy who is a veteran at failing pretty miserably across multiple publishing entities. You publish a full color comic on glossy stock and offer it for "free" as one of your first titles. Instead of the critically acclaimed and long-lived hero you co-created thirty years ago, that expensive and risky book stars a newish and rather silly looking character with a really flat color scheme. On the third page, our hero "humorously" takes a load of shit to the face, and on the fourth page he "hilariously" takes a load of monkey shit to the face. The setting is the kind of traveling circus that was shut down before most of your prospect readers were born. The book itself is narrated by an obnoxious rip-off of Oberon from Mr. Miracle. The story is a series of multi-page vignettes that don't necessarily flow into one another smoothly, even when interdependent, and often end abruptly with any actual resolution, including a less than compelling cliffhanger stopping point.

What could possibly go wrong?





Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hack/Slash: My First Maniac




This is probably no great victory for the creators, given my penchant for acidic, hypercritical reviews of even the best books on the market, but I'm finally ready to commit to collecting new Hack/Slash trades as they are solicited. So long as creator/writer Tim Seeley steers clear of the "expanded universe" genre mash-ups that put me off earlier samplings of his series, I suspect he will continue to entertainment at his consistent level of quality.

So for, my favorite stories have focused on the titular heroine Cassandra Hack working solo in her formative years as a stalker of ‘80s slasher movie archetypes. Thanks to the one-shot Me Without You, I've also warmed to her deformed sidekick Vlad, who only makes a cameo appearance here. From Dr. Loomis to the Dream Warriors, I’m a lot more interested in this type of material with strong protagonists around, and Hack delivers. This story, heavy on internal monologue in the form of diary entries, makes getting reacquainted with the character a solid read. I suspect Seeley has hung out with his share of Suicide Girl types, since Hack’s voice is true for that generation of strong but damaged grrls. Actress Allison Scagliotti seems to agree, and offered a new introduction.

I’ve seen flashbacks to Hack's origin a few times, so while I kept up with the scenes involving the Lunch Lady killer, I suspect the opening sequence as written could confuse the uninitiated. It was wise to give the first full issue over to the aftermath of Hack’s initial kill, showing her inability to fit into normal society afterward (or even before, really,) and her need to direct her innate hostilities toward positive ends.

The second issue is the true start of the main story, as Hack questions her crusade in the early stages of her first mission, and tries to figure out how exactly a broke sixteen-year-old dropout makes her way in the world as a monster killer. Her first target is Farmer Fig, a rural legend that plays out stories of
the "farmer's daughter" to a grisly end. Hack isn't sure she believes in these legends, if there are truly any more "lunch ladies" out there, and whether she has what it takes to do anything about it if there are. In order to go "undercover" amongst people her age, the typical victims of "slashers," Hack is far more successful at winning friends and influencing people than she ever was just being herself. Finding some kind of happiness and acceptance also makes Hack wonder if the new life she's chosen is really for the best.

One of the things I dig about this series his how fully it just goes for it. A group of girls getting in a fight doesn't result in pulled hair or torn skirts, but bloody mouths with missing teeth and eyes swollen shut. Cassie Hack may only be "Canada legal," and exploiting her nubility is a tad uncomfortable, but I like how the artist also draws her kind of awkward and seemingly not yet comfortable in her movements. This isn't a 24-year-old actress in a pink blouse playing at being a teeny bopper, but more like a real young adult taking on more than she might be able to handle. Tim Seeley still provides covers for the individual issues, and his Cassie Hack is much more polished and highly functioning "indie-professional," but also very much model pretty. The interiors by Daniel Leister aren't meant for Marvel/DC, but in the same sense guys like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko weren't suited for the Silver Age norm. His characters seem elongated and gawky, his aesthetic a bit too far off the mainstream path, which makes him perfectly suited for horror material of this stripe. From faces to figures to background to storytelling to action to gore, I find no fault in anything Leister offers in this book. He's apparently been the artist on this series since 2009, and I hope that he continues, because this is the perfect marriage of artist and material. If he ends up on Titans or some such shit, I'mona get pissed.

I spent a lot of time discussing the art, but you should note that I'm not interested in picking out a new project for Daniel Leister. I enjoy the art because it so soundly depicts Tim Seeley's involving story. Tack on one of the versions of the Lunch Lady origin, and My First Maniac is ready to be directly adapted into a hit motion picture. Anyone who is a fan of post-'70s horror, specifically but not exclusively the slasher subgenre, will find the book to exemplify the best in those types of shows. Cassie Hack is the final girl/slayer of choice, there's an inventive killer making the rounds, there are complications and twists to keep up interest, fun but developed characters, gratuitous sex, and no small amount of violent action. Seeley brings the goods on Hack/Slash, and there's no need for guilt in the pleasure.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wednesday Is Any Day For All I Care #103

Captain America and Batroc #1
Sigil #1 (2011)
Xombi #1 (2011)




Captain America and Batroc #1 (Marvel, 2011, $3.99)
Modern comic book writers are fucking idiots. See, comics were an opportunistic medium where low rent hustlers tried to collect as many dimes from as many people as possible by entertaining children for eight page stretches. When soldiers needed a cheap portable activity in the trenches, the hustlers added titties and gore to the mix. In the sixties, a burn out case figured out he could save himself some brain power by stretching the plots of those eight pages across twenty or more, and nobody would notice the dilution if he cut the stuff with cokehead verbosity and flashy characterization. Unfortunately, this attracted pretentious twat college kids who listened to douchebags that had read too much Joseph Campbell, and decided super-heroes were our modern mythology. In a bid for resonance and immortality, they began treating the old comics as scripture, resurrecting and/or killing their idols with greater frequency and diminishing returns while creeping ever further up their own assholes. Any sense of permanence anywhere was pretty thoroughly undone by the '80s, but the '90s helped mask the futility of it all with a constant barrage of Exciting! New! Valuable! The truth is that the comic industry has been slowly dying since the late 40s, and one of their greatest creative accomplishments has been managing to survive as an irrelevant parasitic life form within pop culture since the 1970s.

The rule was that only Uncle Ben and Bucky stayed dead, until Ben showed up every two years for a dream sequence/ghostly visitation/mind fuck while Ed Brubaker brought back motherfucking Bucky. I thought it was surely a joke that Bucky was a brainwashed Soviet super assassin surviving since World War II through intermittent cryogenic suspension and with the aid of a cybernetic arm. I kept waiting for the "gotcha" moment when he was proven an evil fraud, but you can't do that for five years and a lengthy run as the replacement Captain America. Bucky has fans now, at least among the tens of thousands of assholes that bother to read Captain America in 2011. The reason why this is bullshit is that once you bring Bucky back, you know nothing related to death in comics matters, and once you have Bucky become an effective Captain America, there is no hierarchy or accomplishment amongst super-heroes. The entire point of about four years on Mark Gruenwald comics was that no amount of super powers or training could make U.S. Agent into Captain America, because Steve Rogers was a uniquely wonderful human being, and Bucky Barnes shits all over that.

This is why I adore Batroc ze Lepair. His equal at DC would probably be the Riddler. You can try to have the Riddler get possessed by demons and sacrificing babies, but at the end of the day we always think of Frank Gorshin or Jim Carrey showing their nutsacks to children by wearing really tight green spandex body suits with purple question marks all over them. Give him a tie, give him a cane and bowler, have him hang out with chick assistants whose girlie parts hang out. He'll still always be the Riddler, and most people can accept that. Batroc is a foot boxer with the worst French accent since Peter Sellers. He wears orange and purple. His mustache in bigger than his head. He's unfuckupable. You know a Batroc story isn't going to be about life or death, triumph or tragedy. It's about the writer figuring out how to make a good time happen when everybody knows the villain is going to lose a low stakes fight.

However, you had best respect Batroc. No matter how ridiculous he seems, the Leaper fights Captain "Fuck Yeah" America. The real one. The guy who trained half the Marvel Universe to fight, and could still kick their asses. Clever writers have recognized this by having Batroc toe punch the shit out of Spider-Man villains and the Punisher, because you're godddamned right Batroc would do just that. Batroc would dick punch Wolverine, because if you can dance with the Star-Spangled Avenger for fifty years, you're among the most badass losers around.

Kieron Gillen gets this. Yes, he decides to expose Batroc to parkour, but that's like how Batman is already the master of that martial art you just invented five minutes ago. Only a fool denies obvious universal truths, like Batroc beimg about parkour before it even existed. Gillen also has Batroc fuck whores and psychoanalyze himself. Well, why not, if the end result is recognizing the essential Batroc in a modern commercial context? Gillen tells a great story that is true to the character in twenty-two pages, and he could have probably done it in eight, but I like it fine as is. The art of Renato Arlem is a bit haggard for the smooth master of savate, but I like the physical presence he gives Batroc, hulking over normal people while still being believable in acrobatics. Arlem also helps transition fans of Brubaker era Cap into the story, since he keeps to the "house style" established by Steve Epting. A ten page Lee/Kirby reprint closes the book out in fine form.



Sigil #1 (Marvel, 2011, $2.99)
I had hopes for Crossgen when the publisher launched in the early aughts, but not a single one of their books ever held my attention. They seemed to really want to be a Bronze Age indie, very reminiscent of the least adventurous offerings from Pacific, First, Star*Reach, Eclipse, and Epic. It felt like super-hero creators loosed from the shackles of one genre so that they could finally be bound by the shackles of other tired, quaint genres. There were a couple or three customers at my shop who bought most of the line, and I ordered 7-10 copies total of their best selling titles. That's all the audience Mark Alessi's money could buy.

Marvel purchased the Crossgen catalog several years ago, and recently decided to update the sigil and the line with a revival. Seeing as the sigil was the misguided linking device of the quasi-Crossgen universe, referencing it at all seems like an ill-considered first step. I can't recall having read a single issue of the original Sigil, but I'm confident I did, because I read all of my stripped cover returns. It was one of the least popular Crossgen titles I stocked, and clearly did not make an impression on me. The new series also barely registers. It's another one of those stories where a troubled high school kid gets sucked into a fantasy world that fucks up their real life. Ideally, this is meant to echo the dual existence in a teenage mind, between what you want and what you have. I've always found it has the "Robin" effect, saddling a fantasy setting with mundane complications as a means of reader identification, when all we really want to do is punch bitches vicariously through Batman. I don't want to read a story about how my history teacher brings me down, when what I really want to do is ride on a pirate ship for the length of a story. I want my history teacher to be represented in fiction as a dragon, and then I want to cut its fucking head off.

Sigil adds nothing new to a genre well represented in novels, television and movies. It does hint at being a lynch pin for other Crossgen revivals, seeking expanded life through association. Meet the new Crossgen, same as the old Crossgen.



Xombi #1 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
By 1994, I'd pretty much given up on getting into the Milestone Universe. I did not like the art or coloring, and none of the properties spoke to me. I picked up some books a few years down the line out of quarter bins, and aside from Hardware, my assumptions were borne out. I never found a copy of Xombi though, which was a shame. Even though the art of J.J. Birch turned me off, the premise I read in solicitation copy was intriguing. I believe that was the first time I ever heard of nanorobotics, or maybe it was in a Valiant title? Regardless, they sounded weird and cool.

The same words could be applied to the curious but welcome relaunch of Xombi. Maybe writer/creator John Rozum had a strong pitch for bringing back his two-year running series, or maybe DC was still stinging from complaints about their lack of Asian characters after the deaths of Ryan Choi and Lian Harper. Whatever the case, a strong revival seems to have been the result.

As far as I can tell, David Kim does not know martial arts. He is not the successor to a white guy's heroic legacy. He is a scientist who got himself dead, with a novel means of fixing that problem, not without its own complications. Between Xombi and Rai, Asian heroes own nanites, so he's fully his own man. He lives in a peculiar world where the apocalypse is an inconvenience, pocket change will have words with you, and allies have punny names like Nun of the Above. It's tongue in cheek fun, with elements of a potent, and the lovely art of Frazier Irving makes this book a definite contender.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Frank Review of "Network" Two-Disc Special Edition (1976)

The Short Version? "I'm MAD as HELL, and I'm NOT going to take THIS anymore!"
What Is It? Television News Satire
Who Is In It? Evelyn Mulwray, Joseph C. Gillis, Lt. Colonel Kilgore, Bishop and Otis.
Should I See It? Ohh, yes.



I first saw Network in my late teens or early twenties, and I found it to be the kind of movie I would love to have the talent to produce. It has a plot, but it's difficult to tell while you're watching it for the first time, because it takes you on such a long and winding journey. It is at once organic and calculated to the finest detail, subverting your expectations and forcing you to follow along passively in a bid to take everything in. It's a funny movie you probably won't laugh at, and an inspiring movie that directs you to feel depressed and powerless.

Part of the joy of Network is in not knowing where it's headed, so I'm disinclined to give away much of the story. Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is a veteran reporter and news anchor whose personal and professional life is on the skids. With the help of his longtime friend and producer Max Schumacher (William Holden,) Beale gets a new lease on life that sends shockwaves throughout the media. Network suits Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) and Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall) then try to use the event to further their own agendas, to mixed results. Their performances are all sensational, along with unforgettable cameos by Ned Beatty and Beatrice Straight, and several took home Oscars for them. The screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky is brilliant, with the movie feeling like a piece of well adapted literature, perfectly realized by director Sidney Lumet. This might account for the script being voted one of the top ten ever by the Writers Guild of America, East. The film goes beyond being influential to outright prophetic, and if anything has dulled the edge of the razor sharp satire, it is how tragically the world has fallen lockstep in its thirty-five year old predictions.

Extras?

  • Commentary by Director Sidney Lumet A solid track, lacking juicy details due to common love and respect throughout the production. I like to listen to these things while multitasking, and you'll find much of the bonus documentary a retread, so you may just opt for this.
  • The Making of Network: A 6-Part 30th-Anniversary Documentary I would recommend taking this in meal sized portions, because run together at feature length, these docs wear out their welcome. Again, you may wish to choose the commentary track or the docs, but both are really unnecessary. Faye Dunaway makes a worthwhile contribution, but now bears a creepy resemblance to Jocelyn Wildenstein. In fact, all of the actor interviews are well edited to maximize relevancy. The good thing about the segmented format is that more casual viewers can jettison the more technically oriented docs, and the Walter Cronkite closer will be a snoozer for most.
  • Vintage Paddy Chayefsky Interview Excerpt from Dinah! Thirteen minutes, as described. Better, funnier and more insightful that a lot of the slicker doc segments.
  • Private Screenings with Sidney Lumet An hour long interview from Turner Classic Movies. I was pretty sick of hearing about Network after all of those other features, so a career retrospective that only briefly touches on that particular movie (complete with word-for-word repeating of well rehearsed lines) was sweet relief.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wednesday is Almost Over For All I Care #102

Brightest Day #22
Outsiders #37 (2011)
R.E.B.E.L.S. #26 (2011)


Before I ran a shop, I wasn't a part of the Wednesday comics scene, and I don't even buy my comics from a brick and mortar shop anymore. I've been running a countdown toward the point where I finally stop buying monthly since about 2009, and despite an Aquaman series on the horizon, I believe I'm almost there. I think I'll trade-wait from now on, which should explain the return of regular "Dirty Trader" reviews around here, and a marked decrease in "Wednesday" floppy reviews in the coming months. For instance, I've only got three cycles of three buoyed by two very dated reviews and a reprint on that last week. FCBD 2011 should be my final blow-out in terms of keeping this column above bi-weekly publication status.



Brightest Day #22 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
One of the least interesting features drawn by the worst of the book's artists was surprisingly decent when it dominated the issue. Perhaps it was helped by better features drawing to a close, and a lack of direct comparison to them in the same issue?

Scott Clark does Anti-Monitor some justice in a two page spread, but the good will is undone by a terrible Firestorm splash page and the decision to reveal that under his helmet, A-M looks like Garv from L.E.G.I.O.N. by way of a poor man's Dormmammu. This guy's star has fallen so hard since Crisis, he might actually qualify as a Firestorm villain before it's all said and done. Six of the twenty story pages are full or dual page illustrations, plus a seventh half-splash, so you can really take in how shoddy the computer effects are and how little story your getting for the $2.99 line holding.

The story itself rides the short bus. I get that the White Lantern allowed itself to be stolen so that it could bushwack the Anti-Monitor, but why did it go to so much trouble, and wouldn't it be nice to tell the readers the point of all this? Did the White Lantern, the Anti-Monitor, or a third party create the new Black Lanterns? If it was A-M, why would he creaste insubordinate jackasses when Shadow Wraiths could do the job without involving the father figures of troublesome super-heroes? What good would fire, no matter how explosive, be against the Anti-Monitor? Why was the Professor released from the Black Lantern Firestorm matrix? How could Stern move fast enough to shield Ronny, and why would his scrawny ass take all the blast, unless the whole thing was engineered by the White Lantern? How did ol'salty managed to hang on for three pages of dialogue? Who was impressed with Firestorm's final moment of "triumph," considering the White Lantern was the deus ex machina that did every bit of the plot carrying, including saving Jason's dad in a tossed-off bit of dialogue? What makes Johns and Tomasi think serving heroes shit, then allowing the supporting cast or White Lantern to save the day, inclines anyone toward buying the inevitable solo series?



Outsiders #37 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
I'm probably the only person who bought this book specifically because Keith Giffen was the solicited artist. Keith wrote a pretty harrowing Doomsday riff for Erik Larsen's Freak Force back in the day, plus the influential Despero rampages for JLI, and he's just really good at depicting mashed bones jutting out of steaming entrails. Unfortunately, Phillip Tan returned to draw the issue as super-hero shit with obtuse visual storytelling and entirely too many unwanted subplots.

The short version of Dan Didio's tale is that one team of Outsiders led by Geo-Force sided with the Eradicator and New Krypton, became pariahs, and now the nation of Markovia is in ruins because of it. The other Outsiders team, led by Black Lightning but manipulated by Amanda Waller, are out to take down the first group. However, that's just a five page distraction from the "Reign of Doomsday."

For those who have not read a Doomsday story, the way they work is that this raging monster comes out of nowhere, beats the hell out of teams of c-list super-heroes without managing to kill anyone, has a protracted battle with sturdier b-listers, and then is finally defeated by Superman. The variation this time is that Doomsday is taking out Superman clones, and is here for the Eradicator. Doomsday has to go through the Outsiders to get to his likely fakeout "killing" of the Eradicator. The Outsiders have contrived, Bronze Age personalities with dialogue to match, which they spout before losing. There basically isn't a thought in your head right now that does not directly parallel or far exceed what made it to the page. I'm sure that this relatively bloodless (in all respects) could have been improved by some Giffen meat pie (at least Looker, right,) but it lies down narratively as readily as this garbage team does textually.



R.E.B.E.L.S. #26 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
As mentioned in the header, this was the series that kept me buying at least one title every month, and its status is lame duck. Two more issues and out. We've had our ups and downs, but I expect to enjoy it until the end. Daniel Hdr draws the first half of this issue, but for the most part it looks enough like Claude St. Aubin's second half that you wouldn't notice the difference. I guess the congratulations go to inker Scott Hanna on that save. Starro the Barbarian begins downshifting to the punk ass I always took him for, Lobo bes Lobo, and their's a mid-book splash with enough of a visceral punch to deserve taking the indulgence. I could have done without the umpteenth Lobo origin revision, which will never make me forget that the dude debuted in The Omega Men wearing an orange and purple leotard. It did kind of bug me that the legend now goes that the Czarnians were an isolationist warrior race who all had facial tattoos, unless the whole point is to sucker people by having Lobo's clones turn out to be the hippie peaceniks Lobo supposedly killed off.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Frank Review of "Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis" (2005)

The Short Version? The third unrequested sequel to the other franchise spun-off Night of the Living Dead
What Is It? Zombie Action
Who Is In It? Coyote Peter
Should I See It? Maybe



Necropolis is a truly amazing motion picture. Filmed in Romania and the Ukraine on a six million dollar budget, the picture debuted edited on the Sci-Fi Channel before being released with an "R" direct-to-DVD the following year. By all rights, this should have been as big an atrocity as Day of the Dead 2: Contagium, but it is instead an incontestably worthy standard bearer for the Return of the Living sequel series. That is to say that it is mildly enjoyable, with reasonably good production values, some solid bits of gore, a degree of crossover appeal, and is above all entirely adequate.

While the flick sets aside several of the innovations that set Return apart from all the other zombie movies (the undead desiring brains as a temporary analgesic; victims' slow, conscious transformations; the creeps' more decayed state, their being immune to "head shots" or permanent kills of any kind,) there are a surprising number of faithful elements (Trioxin barrels, electricity as a vulnerability, talking zombies (okay, twoish) with familiar personalities, precocious child endangerment, romantic douchebaggery, slumming veteran actor in a major role, etc.) Each movie in the series has made its tweaks and had its idiosyncrasies, so savaging it over being mildly retarded and taking liberties with the rather fluid "lore" seems foolish to me.

The movie is very much a child of the '80s, dumb and filled with cliché. However, it is also conveniently of the now, in that the kids are remarkably proactive, resourceful, and remorselessly kill the shit out of zombies (knowing full well they're irredeemable.) After almost a decade and a half of Resident Evil, there's no dragged out realizations about the dealio, although better aim and fewer nun-chucks should have been brought to bear.

All of the leads are plastic California twentysomethings, just like ROTLD 3 and plenty of other genre examples. I did a web search to see if Peter Coyote had a stroke or in some other way suffered a debilitating ailment to explain his stiff, grimacing, uniformly terrible performance. About half the speaking parts went to the former Soviet block, who are either spectacularly misrepresented as "Latinos" or even more hilariously dubbed very badly. Among the kids, there's a retread of the male lead from ROTLD3 with less personality but ironically more sideburns (John Keefe,) the token black (but he's a computer hacker played by Cory Hardrict,) the exceedingly fuckable "geek" girl with the glasses and very minor overbite (Aimee-Lynn Chadwick,) the also fuckable popular girl (Jana Kramer,) the assholish Mexi-Can (nationality unknown) who still takes care of business (Toma Danila,) the prick who helps start the trouble (Elvin Dandel,) and after the three guys I almost like I'm already bored with this list.

This is definitely one of the most fantastically expository pieces of cinema in memory. I can't recall a single bit of dialogue that wasn't created to serve a specific plot point in the film, and most of the characters are similarly designed for optimal function. My favorite example is the "triple-jointed" gymnast Darque Tan casualty who exists to a) be introduced, b) seduce a security guard c) get killed, d) set up one of the few partially functional humorous/tragic moments. Four notable appearances, by-the-numbers, just like "Hannibal" Smith would have planned it. Sure it's cynical, but I respect its precise application (if not its absence of nudity, the most obvious and natural exploitation of such a character.)

The music is mostly the shambling remains of nü-metal, including an ill-timed Godsmack single recycled from The Scorpion King's soundtrack, and an Alice Cooper tune. There are some attempted jump scares. The make-up is effective enough to get the job done, and there are few okay special effects. The direction is pedestrian and the acting is at the level of a lesser teen drama. It's not really good, the story logic is all its own, and it's not really recommended, but it's far more watchable and much less terrible than you might have heard.


Extras?

  • Animated Menu Remember those? That sure took me back.
  • Trailers Yes.


...nurghophiles...

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