Sunday, December 30, 2012

nurghophonic jukebox: "I Got A Girl " by Tripping Daisy

Written By: Tim DeLaughter, Tripping Daisy
Released: June 20, 1995
Album: I Am an Elastic Firecracker
Single?: #6 on Billboard Modern Rock Tracks

I got a girl who lives with me
I got a girl she smells so sweetly
I got a girl she loves her dog
I got a girl I love her dog too
I got a girl who stares in the mirror
I got a girl who blames it on her period
I got a girl she is so right
I got a girl she's my guiding light

Well I know, I need, I feel we're going higher and higher

I got a girl who loves good soul
I got a girl who dances the disco
I got a girl who wears cool shoes
I got a girl who wears them in the nude
I got a girl who speaks her mind
I got a girl who will argue anytime
I got a girl she is so small
I got a girl she'll knock down any wall

Well I know, I need, I feel we're going higher and higher

Get a load of this she's always bitching at me when I'm feeling down,
Asking questions with her little frown,
I can't take much much more of this, I'm out

Get a load of this she's always bitching at me when I'm feeling down,
Asking questions with her little frown,
I can't take much much more of this, I'm out

I got a girl I love to kiss
I got a girl I never wanna miss
I got a girl who's my best friend
I got a girl that won't even hold my hand
I got a girl that makes me laugh
I got a girl I'll make her laugh too
I got a girl she has girlfriends
I got a girl I like her girlfriends

Well I know, I need, I feel we're going higher and higher
I got a girl
And she's got a guy

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tuesday Is Christmas For All I Care #167

Arrow #1 (2012)
Indie Comics Horror #1
Judge Dredd #1 (2012)
Swamp Thing #14 (2012)

Guess what? I've got lungs full of dogshit and a fever-- the only prescription is more butthurt comic creators!

Arrow #1 (DC, 2012, $3.99)
Another fine example of the failings of modern comics. Collected in this overpriced advertisement circular are three stories by as many creative teams made to tie into the ersatz Batman Green Arrow TV show on the CW. These were made for the internet as digital first downloads, and I think they sold for a buck a piece, so it's kind of important to tell a satisfying story in ten pages. None even come close.

The first retells Oliver Queen's show origin while offering the parallel tale of his initial homecoming after five years as an island castaway. Both are given short shrift, too vague while offering less details than the preview trailer for the show. While it's cute that they got Mike Grell to draw the character given his history, likenesses and modernity aren't his strong suit. The buff twentysomething show star more resembles a late life Steve McQueen after raiding Jan-Michael Vincent's late '70s wardrobe, and the art style would be more appropriate on a sports & outdoors t-shirt.

Then again, that's much preferable to second artist Sergio Sandoval's storyboards that seem intent on avoiding backgrounds whenever possible. Ben Sokolowski's script is the closest to being a complete entity, even if the plot is dumb, hackneyed and riddled with holes.

The final tale is a China White spotlight, although comic fans should immediately recognize Helena Bertinelli's origin story with dashes of Virginia Applejack and I guess the laziest homage to O-Ren Ishii possible. Each of the tales feel like a prelude or aside, and just sit there.

Indie Comics Horror #1 (Aazurn, 2012, $4.75)
As with Creator-Owned Heroes, I ordered this book in hopes that in the midst of an anthology boldly defying the corporate mainstream mentality, there would be at least one diamond in the rough. Optimism is a key ingredient in the formula for cynicism. You haven't heard of most of these guys for a reason. Furthermore, each story starts with a text biography of the writer, and only the writer, at the top margin of the splash page. Way to bring the team together fuckwits, especially since the writing doesn't even meet the standards of adequacy of the better art found here.

  • "Immortal Resistance" by Rob Anderson and DaFu Yu is "What If King Leonidas was a super-zombie?" The art is best suited for low rent heroic adventure, so it works on that front, but not at all in the horror department (especially the tacked-on epilogue.)
  • Students of the Unusual: "Worm Cheese" made me wonder where my free CD got to? In four years, their efforts haven't improved one iota, and you can tell where the story is going within a few panels. Art's lousy, too.
  • "The Standard" was this sort of modern pulp social commentary thing, which aside from a not-really-twisted ending, didn't play as horror. Adrian Rodriquez's art, which I'm sure exists in full digital color somewhere, is better than the limp story deserves.
  • "The Belt," also drawn by DaFu Yu, who is again too Image-y for the gore to be any more terrifying than the sophomoric ultraviolence in an early Rob Liefeld book. The script comes the closest to the area of The Twilight Zone, but is more like the cable version of Outer Limits. It's dark sci-fi with a constant sardonic Verhoven meta-narration that distances the reader from the characters' plight almost as much as their lack of a personality does.
  • "Minister to the Undead" almost tells a story, but instead just sort of stops at establishing a premise. A tie-in pin-up is five years old, so maybe this was a stalled pitch at some point.
  • "Witch Hunters" sucked so bad in execution that I have to assume writer Paul Bradford was forced to simply salvage what he could from Allen Byrns' wretched excuse for art, which takes the near talentless laziness of Ben Templesmith to its least logical nigh-incoherent stick figure extreme. Then again, Bradford turns around and rewrites the same lousy sad goth boy poem three times over for as many artists under the pseudonym "Hierophantom," so maybe he's as much to blame.

Judge Dredd #1 (IDW, 2012, $3.99)
The Judge Dredd franchise is a thing I want to like, have tried repeatedly to like, but do not in fact like. He's the biggest name in British genre comics, and that stuff Brian Bolland drew sure was pretty, but that's that. I read Fleetway reprints of Dredd and Psi-Judge Anderson stories in the '80s, saw both movies, and bought most of the Dredd books DC published in the '90s (including two short-lived ongoings and a bunch of team-up specials.) I'm a fan of Mills and O'Neill's Marshal Law, which is pretty much Judge Dredd for the spandex crowd. I love me some black comedy, especially at the expense of the U.S.A. I'm sure a big part of the problem is that I don't tend to enjoy the writing of Dredd mainstays like John Wagner and Alan Grant, and the approach I most gravitated toward was the smarter, more acerbic American Andy Helfer. In truth though, the post-apocalyptic setting and specific flavor of sci-fi have been done to death, and the creators' approach to the fascistic state in which Dredd thrives is too flat and arch. I don't have to root for Dredd as an anti-hero or stealth antagonist, but I do need at least one character to give a fuck about, and never find one.

Duane Swierczynski does not appear likely to buck the trend. The lead story with artist Nelson Daniel is Dredd 101 (and perhaps a touch of Magnus Robot Fighter.) The art is serviceable, the story gets across its intent, and so I will nod at its workmanlike quality. A second story would appear to run during the first, but there is contrary evidence in the art, so it instead seems like the writer simply failed to display range. I've always been fond of Paul Gulacy, but he takes advantage of Dredd's skewed world to offer poor anatomy, occasional hyperactive detail amidst broad stretches of bland basics, and editorial cartoon noodling. The story explores the failings of Dredd's law, but without the slightest nuance, projecting to the cheap seats. The most interesting thing in the package is a one page text piece by Douglas Wolk about what made Dredd a Anglophile phenomenon, which contrasts severely against IDW's sad product.

Swamp Thing #14 (DC, 2012, $2.99)
Scott Snyder has gotten to be a biggish deal in comics over recent years, so my natural inclination is to try and take him down, but he hasn't given me much ammunition. For the second installment of a crossover event read cold, the issue is surprisingly comprehensible. It gives a sense of who the characters are and what stakes they're fighting for, plus there's a blessed lack of ellipses for a Swamp Thing comic. Yanick Paquette is overly enthusiastic about rendering big ol' titties, but he otherwise serves the marriage of horror and heroism well. I'd have rather gotten further along in the narrative, but like Abraham, it was a good floppy for its time.

Friday, December 21, 2012

nurghophonic jukebox: "If I Had A Rocket Launcher" by Bruce Cockburn

Written By: Bruce Cockburn
Released: 1984
Album: Stealing Fire
Single?: #88 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, #49 in Canada

A favorite of my kid sister, who has kids of her own today, and would certainly appreciate it if they not be imperiled by psychopaths on a rampage.

Here comes the helicopter -- second time today
Everybody scatters and hopes it goes away
How many kids they've murdered only God can say
If I had a rocket launcher...I'd make somebody pay

I don't believe in guarded borders and I don't believe in hate
I don't believe in generals or their stinking torture states
And when I talk with the survivors of things too sickening to relate
If I had a rocket launcher...I would retaliate

On the Rio Lacantun, one hundred thousand wait
To fall down from starvation -- or some less humane fate
Cry for Guatemala, with a corpse in every gate
If I had a rocket launcher...I would not hesitate

I want to raise every voice -- at least I've got to try
Every time I think about it water rises to my eyes.
Situation desperate, echoes of the victims cry
If I had a rocket launcher...Some son of a bitch would die

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Walking Dead Volume 17: Something To Fear (2012)

I'm starting to hate the internet. I like to check out the naked actress screencap sites, which led to a subplot from this season's Mad Men getting spoiled for me just because I wanted a peek at some Rory Gilmore sideboob. That's the price I had to pay I suppose, so I could walk that off. Then I was reading an article about this year's Golden Globes nominations, and Mad Men got snubbed for once. The article felt the need to not only point out that an actor besides Jon Hamm perhaps deserved a nom, but specifically because this this and that happened to their character. Why in the fucking fucking shit cunt faggot whore did that need to be dropped casually into a sentence? Because the person writing it was an unconscientious dickweed who doesn't seem to be aware that there isn't much in the way of appointment television anymore, and some of us like to watch a whole season in one rip on DVD. I will point out that if my girlfriend hadn't insisted that we re-watch season four because of the extended gap before season five, we'd have seen the show before it got ruined for me. Remind me to give her the finger later. Just the one, now.

Anyway, comics sites are no better, especially when they delight in covering The Walking Dead #100 and how it was the best-selling single issue of a comic since before the current crop of Disney/Nickelodeon stars were born. This involved a host of variant covers and there were cutesy tie-ins so that by the time the trade collection had come out, I knew that it was Professor Plum in the study with the lead pipe. There was one other surprise in there, at least, but the book is still reading like an extended adaptation of The Girl Who Owned a City with more curse words. A lot of the set-up was strikingly similar to the epic arc around #50, demanding comparisons this arc is painfully ill-equipped to stand up to. I got a bigger jolt reading about the current shenanigans in Spider-Man, a character and franchise that hasn't meant anything significant to me since about 1988.

The only TV show I currently watch first run is The Walking Dead. I'm seriously considering adding a few more because of how insane the lack of courtesy with regards to spoilers has gotten (should I even bother with True Blood at this point?) It's ironic that I've followed The Walking Dead in first run since reading the comic puts me years ahead of the adaptation, and for the first couple of seasons, the show wasn't particular good at translating the appeal. I mostly kept up with it because my girlfriend had gotten into it enough to make it a ritual. However, the current season has been fucking fantastic, casting off dead weight in spectacular fashion while ratcheting up the action and intrigue enough to conceal the plot holes and uneven acting. The show has caught up to the comic's golden period, and has lifted its game to compete. One of my favorite comic characters joined the show at the mid-season break, just as I'm realizing that I don't root for any of the characters left in the books anymore. The comics are doing their best to maintain the lowest depths of tedium from the show's second season. Television has finally overtaken the comics in quality, which makes me sad and not a little put out when I fork over money for new collections after the shark has long since been jumped. It's hard to quit after seventeen fucking volumes, and I'm mildly curious to see where things go from here, but for me the best thing Robert Kirkman could do is start a new story with an entirely different cast in a different location. Compared to the show, the comics are a chore, and my preferred reading model undercuts my best hope for pleasure: modest shock value regarding a crew coasting on fumes.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

nurghophonic jukebox: "Rose Of The Devil's Garden" by Tiger Army

Written By: Nick 13
Released: June 29, 2004
Album: Tiger Army III: Ghost Tigers Rise
Single?: Uncharted, but Masuimi Max cameos in the music video

There is a rose in the Devil's garden
In shadow it grows alone
Many things are dangerous now
In this garden we call home

Be careful as you make your way
Some things are poison to the touch
You've spent your life here in this place
You long to run away so much

My love it is a black rose (my love it is a black rose)
Held out to you by the hand of fate (held by the hand of fate now)
And as this dark romance grows...
It's not from the sun, but the starlight that's so far away
Above the Devil's garden

The fertile soil of poisoned hearts
Fed by tears and nighttime rain
Under Transylvanian moon
Grows the flower bred from pain

Death is pure - life is not
So ask yourself, what do you want?
As for me, well I want you
So pick the black rose and let its thorns cut you


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wednesday Is Meeting The New Boss For All I Care #166

Action Comics #14 (2012)
Indestructible Hulk #1
Marvel NOW! Point One #1
Talon #1 (2012)

Action Comics #14 (DC, 2012, $3.99)
In 2012, with regular pictures coming in from the dead world, it's hard to get excited by a mystery on Mars. I bought the book hoping for some early New 52 Martian Manhunter cameoage to jazz it up. Instead, it's Superman filling in for Doctor Who in a lame comic to read from behind the couch, or whatever. I always get pissed when I realize a Who episode isn't resolving fast enough to not turn into a two-parter, and the only reason that didn't happen here is because the second half would have to be better than the first on premise alone. I just wish I could have skipped directly to that one, because $4 for purely functionary read should give me the right to one good open palm slap across the back of Grant Morrison's bald head. There's also a back-up by Sholly Fisch and Chris Sprouse eight pages on a wimpy concept that should have been bookend pages for an actual story.

Indestructible Hulk #1 (Marvel, 2012, $3.99)
Mark Waid saw Joss Whedon's The Avengers and said, "yeah-- that." Maria Hill subs for Black Widow, Phil Coulson cameos, and Nick Fury is surely forthcoming. Unfortunately, every single deviation from the movie is wrong-headed. Banner finds S.H.I.E.L.D. instead of vice versa, and makes Maria Hill seem completely incompetent as a result. Waid speaks through Banner to sell the series' premise to readers, a flagrant violation of "show, don't tell." Curiously, Leinil Francis Yu worked better for me drawing ten pages of talking heads in a diner than the drawn out Hulk mayhem that followed. Mad Thinker remains a throwaway villain tossed in for an amusing line or two, and while I appreciate it being a done-in-one, I have no desire to continue from here.

Marvel NOW! Point One #1 (Marvel, 2012, $5.99)
It takes some gall to package a bunch of shitty previews to series that probably won't sell with a bridging story and charge folks $6 for the sampling. Starlord gets a traumatic origin sequence, but fuck you if you don't know who Peter Quill is, because you're not getting shit for exposition. Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness reteam for a Nova series no one on earth wants, so much so that it might fail during their run instead of after they leave. Gillen, McKelvie & Norton turned me onto Young Avengers a bit, but I'm not invested enough to bite on this alone. An eight page Ant-Man story by Matt Fraction and Mike Allred is a self-validating proposition, even if it stops more than ends, and won't lead me to FF. I liked the Forge solo story well enough, so maybe I'll keep an eye out for other Dennis Hopeless work, if he ever gets out of the mutie ghetto. The Nick Fury/Agent Coulson bridge tries to tie all these disparate elements together, but can't pull it off, and nothing in the book seems likely to impact on my Marvel Comics buying habits.

Talon #1 (DC, 2012, $2.99)
There's a phenomenon with TV show pilots where the creators put all their heart and soul in that positive first step, and then totally stumble on the second. This was that. Picking at threads from a Batman Family crossover like a vulture snacking on a corpse, the heroic Talon battles a villainous Talon again as they talk about how secret and unbeatable the Court of Owls are some more. An arch exposition spewing supporting character is thrust into the narrative as good Talon acts like an idiot to maintain trumped up drama. Guillem March only gets to draw three characters, and you get tired of looking at them after a while. In the end, good Talon finally accepts his life's mission, which I thought he'd already done in #0, as well as donning the horrible official Talon costume I'd forgotten he was stuck with because he looked decent for two issues without it. This comic effectively undoes all the good will built up by the debut.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Changeoverscope: Daniel Craig as James Bond

I wanted to try something new with my movie reviews, because the long involved focused ones get to be too time and energy consuming. I'd like to talk about more flicks than I've managed to without suffering through hours of commentary tracks and such. Hence, "Changeoverscope," a selection of relatively brief, informal, often related movie critiques. First up, my girlfriend recently decided that she has a thing for squishfaced Daniel Craig, which motivated her to watch all of his appearances as James Bond, and I went along for the ride.

I saw Casino Royale when it hit theaters in 2006 with a friend who was a fellow long time Bond fan. We'd both really liked the first Brosnan Bond, Goldeneye, but we agreed that the series had gone downhill from there. We turned to one another and sneered over what I still feel is one of the very worst Bond tunes ever, Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name." For my buddy, Casino Royale was the final straw, as he found the reboot a hokey Bourne impersonation. I enjoyed the flick the first time, as it was my initial exposure to parkour, I appreciate Martin Campbell's directorial eye, and I'd abused myself repeatedly to Eva Green in The Dreamers. Judi Dench remained a great M, and I was cool with Jeffrey Wright as the new Felix Leiter. On the other hand, I found Craig a boring thug, and Mads Mikkelsen's Le Chiffre was laughably ridiculous. Despite giving the movie a thumb up, I didn't watch it again for six years, and only half paid attention to it on home video. On review, I wish we'd had more time with Isaach De Bankolé's Steven Obanno, a far more menacing and dynamic villain. The movie really seemed to drag on, with too many cutesy nods to franchise hallmarks.

I actively watched Quantum of Solace, which I'd skipped in 2008. After the Moore-like parodic lows of Brosnan, I think folks were so relieved by Casino Royale's grit that they allowed euphoria to conceal its flaws. Quantum was then overly criticized from the point of its name being announced. The main problem with the sequel is its dependance on Casino Royale for context. It's a revenge flick like License To Kill, but doesn't feature the motivating slight, so it fails to engage the audience's emotions on its own. Some of the action set pieces thrill, others not, and the story meanders considerably (though it's still more clever than Royale in its plots.) Olga Kurylenko plays against her strengths as a Ukrainian actress in a Bond flick by running around with a gross Jersey Shore tan as an unconvincing Bolivian. Gemma Arterton is an element of Bond Girl recidivism as the arch, doomed Strawberry Fields. On the other hand, Mathieu Amalric has been excessively hated as the intentionally weaselly Dominic Greene, who serves his role as a guy you want to meet a bad end while offering a hard pitch for the secret organization Quantum as the new SPECTRE. Giancarlo Giannini makes a much better impression upon returning to the role of Rene Mathis, including one of the all time great scenes in a Bond feature. Daniel Craig had an opportunity to express the pain and anger that drives him to inhuman feats, and better recalls the hard edged Bond of the Fleming novels. Craig may not be my favorite actor to play Bond, but his physicality and intensity make him far and away the best actor to personify Bond as conceived for the novels. I very much enjoyed Marc Forster's stylish direction on a tighter, meaner Bond flick with a solid final set piece and more satisfying closure than the previous entry.

Skyfall took twice as long to get released, and there were years of doubt that any new Bond was forthcoming in the wake of the MGM bankruptcy, much less on time for the fiftieth anniversary of his cinematic debut. Absence, anxiety, and not a little nostalgia seem to have made critics receptive to the point of once again crowing a new Craig film the best Bond ever. I suspect history will not be so kind, as the flick is dumb, dull and downbeat. A foul-up in the cold opening helps to explain why Craig looks so much older, introduces Naomie Harris' serviceable Moneypenny to the new continuity, and sets up the most visually potent title sequence of the new era (which in turn strengthens the impact of Adele's vocal histrionics despite lyrical pablum.) The always exceptional Judi Dench offers her finest turn as M, and Ben Whishaw is creepy cool as the first Q intended to be taken seriously. However, Javier Bardem will one day know scorn for trafficking in homophobia to sell his tepid retread of both Heath Ledger's Joker and several prior, superior Bond villains (Alec Trevelyan by way of Blofeld.) Bérénice Marlohe's treatment as the transparently thin Sévérine is contemptible, while Ralph Fiennes' Gareth Mallory has all the subtly of Poochie in its obvious intention. The screenplay if full of "why did that even happen" and general ridiculousness. An awful lot of fan wankery is pressed into the mess, like a reunited band promoting their new album on tour by playing through their catalog hits in a too desperate bid to reconnect with their audience. The final act is horrid; the least compelling setting and action of any Bond film that I can recall. I was literally fighting off sleep, which is a shame, because director Sam Mendes' earlier set pieces were visually stunning. At least it leaves the pieces in place for less precious and more propulsive entries to come.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wednesday Is Not At All Timely For All I Care #165

B.P.R.D.: 1948 #1
Bedlam #1 (2012)
Liberty Annual 2012
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Annual 2012

Got holiday'd, got burned out, got sick, people died, empires crumbled, yadda yadda...

B.P.R.D.: 1948 #1 (Dark Horse, 2012, $3.50)
This was not new reader friendly, following "1946" and "1947" mini-series, which were all about filling backstory of the Hellboy universe to begin with. I've always tended to enjoy the writing of John Arcudi, even when it's too cinematically staged to be satisfying as a comic book, which is the case here. I wish I could see this as a cable mini-series instead of a dry, brief floppy periodical. The only casualty would be the art of Max Fiumara, featuring delightfully skewed caricatures of life wholly appropriate to the off-kilter nature of the environment. For the relatively uninitiated such as myself, it is the saving grace of a book where unfamiliar characters speak cryptically to one another.

Bedlam #1 (Image, 2012, $3.50)
Nick Spencer is one of the better new writers in comics, and I've been waiting for him to do a comic I could get behind. Iron Man 2.0 and Ultimate X-Men were major label bullshit, and even Thief of Thieves seemed like dues-paying within Robert Kirkman's Image fiefdom. Despite my affection for the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, the "Next Generation" approach and simply being co-opted by Dan Didio's DC kept me from even sampling Spencer's series. Morning Glories has probably been his biggest hit to date, and Existence 2.0/3.0 has been the thing I've liked the best, but neither truly hooked me and both were marred by art from Joe Eisma, who I find deeply off-putting.

Bedlam illustrator Riley Rossmo isn't going to be nominated for a 2012 ...nurgh... Artist I Want To See Draw Things award either, and the whole premise is clearly Gotham Central fan fiction. No one would ever build a major U.S. metropolis under the name of "Bedlam," but as a way to have Arkham Asylum writ large over the whole of Gotham City, it's an appropriate conceit. The book is Spencer doing an unauthorized continuation of the Christopher Nolan Batman films, with the Heath Ledger Joker starring and Gary Oldman's Commissioer Gordon as a supporting player. If I really wanted to reach for analogues, I could even finger the probable Harvey Bullock. The main change-up appears to be Detective Renee Montoya set to take on a Clarice Starling role as the series progresses.

As diminishing as that summary sounds, Spencer's script is effective, with a twist that will make you want to start the book over immediately to read it from a new perspective. 48 pages of involving story for less than four bucks is a huge bargain, and I anxiously await the first trade collection to see if the arc can sustain the tension of this debut. It's my hope that Spencer will do for the not-Dark Knight what Kirkman did for not-George Romero zombies: geek out on the material thoroughly for an extended time as their enthusiasm infects the audience.

The CBLDF Presents Liberty Annual 2012 (Image, 2012, $4.99)
Okay Jonathan Hickman two-pager. Better four pages by Andy Diggle & Ben Templesmith. Alright extended editorial cartoon by Howard Chaykin & Sina Grace. Solid two-fer from Steven T. Seagle & Marco Cinello. Sweet two-fer for Joe Keatinge & Chynna Clugston Major Flores Baxter-Birney. Underwhelming five page James Robinson/J. Bone "Saviors" backdoor trailer. Nifty three pager from James Asmus & Takeshi Miyazawa. Lame Marineman/Hip Flask two page team-up by Richard Starkings & Ian Churchill. Odd single strip from Chris Roberson & Roger Langridge. Gabriel Bà centerfold. Winning Chris Giarrusso strip. Pretty four page Storm Dogs by David Hine & Dougie Braithwaite. Two page Brandon Graham nonsense. Heavy-handed Jim McCann/Janet Lee inspirational. Two page meh from Kieron Gillen, Nate Bellegarde & Jordie Bellaire. Terry Moore channels Charles Scultz for two. Six page Robert Kirkman/Charlie Adlard Walking Dead rounds out and highlights the collection, though the basics were borrowed for the TV show's midseason finale. All in all, I'd say the quality was up this year.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Annual 2012 (IDW, 2012, $8.99)
I always cheered the success of TMNT as a victory for independent comics creators, but I never thought the comic was actually any good at all. Sixty pages of Kevin Eastman story and art are about as painful as three hours of open mic night, rather shameful for a career spanning decades. It was a swell blast from the past to see old school screentones used throughout the book, and entirely necessary, since the art underneath them is still as poor as one would expect from a nobody toiling on an inferior labor of love during the B&W boom. The story is a moronic riff on the car wreck Roshomon section of Guy Ritchie's Snatch, and the characters are such wretchedly arch cliches that there's actually two Scotsmen with phonetic "accents;" the down-on-his-luck boxer and the bartender, and both of whom should probably have been Irish. Of course the black guy ("Brooklyn S. Bridge," a joke Rob Liefeld used in 1992) is the one who wants to keep the ill-gotten loot, because nigga-wah? Nigga-who? That sort of inanity goes on for page after page, and life is just too short, amiright?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Wednesday Is For Turkey Stuffing For All I Care #164

Cyber Force #1 (2012)
Michael Turner's Soulfire Primer
Star Trek: The Next Generation - Hive #1
The Walking Dead: Michonne Special #1

Cyber Force #1 (Image, 2012, Free)
Comic book fans collectively donated $117,000 so that Top Cow could "give away" the first issue of a Cyberforce revival that retailers still paid something like 30¢ for to keep them from ordering one million copies each (shipping costs may apply.) I don't know why people would give up so much of their hard earned money to float other people's free ride, but I must say, a result like this lends credit to the Tea Party fighting any and all government subsidies. Seriously, reading this comic makes me want to not read any more free comics from Top Cow, much less paid ones. When the original series came out, Marc Silvestri was at the height of his artistic powers, and the book itself featured the highest production values of its time, but was still just a shitty rip-off of Jim Lee's shitty rip-off of the X-Men, WildC.A.T.s. Where Lee had the good sense to lay off his high school writing buddy and eventually hire fucking Alan Moore, Cyberforce is still just a Jim Cameron flavored Champions campaign run amok as crafted by the usual Top Cow band of idiots. Khoi Pham does a decent Silvestri imitation, but his visual storytelling is so unclear that you need those Bronze Age captions to explain the action in a given panel. The design aesthetic is rob-crustacian with a hint of steampunk, the overused tropes are tripe, and the two person narrative captions make me want to punch an amputee. This reboot needs to go away fast and never be spoken of again, just like the decision to help fund it instead of making a charitable donation or paying a record price for a record-setting baseball right before the record gets broken again. See, even Todd McFarlane's dated hubris is more interesting than this comic.

Michael Turner's Soulfire Primer Aspen, 2012, $1.00
I got this book in the summer, finally read most of it in the fall, but still managed to forget to review it until near winter. I hate Aspen comics more than those of any other company I can think of. They're just watered down modern fantasy crap written by sub-literate Southern Californians illustrated by clones of the late Michael Turner's shitty ass rubber people art style. There's even an Aryan boy messiah in this fucker. If you can make it through the badly edited reprints of pages from volume I with lots of new expository captions, and I couldn't without weeks long breaks, there's also an overly detailed text synopsis of volumes II and III to plow through. It's like listening to a teenage girl charting the goings-on of her high school's love lives.

Star Trek TNG: Hive #1 (IDW, 2012, $3.99)
This is one of those books you damn with faint praise. The art is bad, but at least it's freehand, so it's not full of blank-eyed photoreference zombies. The story pivots on a key moment in Next Generation continuity, but it's one that's been done to death, and the first issue barely conveys enough of the plot to whet your appetite. If you're a fan, you'll be relieved by its mediocrity in the face of probable rancidity, but all others steer clear.

The Walking Dead: Michonne Special (Image, 2012, $2.99)
A friend of mine still subscribes to Playboy Magazine, so I was lucky enough to read the six page Michonne origin story that gets reprinted here months back. I still like it, especially because Darryl Dixon has filled much of Michonne's role in the comics on the TV show, but this tale emphasizes their differences now that she's transitioned to live action. Michonne's an intelligent career woman traumatized into adapting to the horror of existence in this world, where the zombie apocalypse gave Darryl the opportunity to mean something based solely on basic hunting skills and an ability to follow orders. The origin transitions smoothly into the reprint of Michonne's first appearance, which unsurprisingly, does not read all that well outside the context of a trade paperback. It does however remind you that the third season of the TV show has so far been better than the source comics, which was not true before now.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

1994-1995 Swipe Collage

I am not an artist, so when I draw, it's an unnatural, laborious undertaking. I tried to develop my limited ability for years though, and this was an attempt to gauge my aptitude in a variety of styles. For instance, I grew up loving Jim Starlin, John Romita Jr., and (to a lesser degree) John Buscema, but my hand cannot replicate the contours of their lines. I felt a lot more comfortable when I'd step into the shoes of guys like Gray Morrow, Paul Gulacy and Tim Truman. I think I could pull off Gil Kane, another childhood fascination, with some modest degree of facility. I think his calculated, geographical anatomical construction helped. The Trevor Von Eeden and Keith Giffen stuff isn't too bad, but their work is so spare, it's dancing on a razor's edge not to screw up, because you can't hide anything with gratuitous noodling. I didn't remember having such a fleeting fascination with Jae Lee, but it makes sense, because he's the exact opposite of those two. Lee buried a lot of shitty anatomy and questionable layouts with excessive Bisleyesque details. That Tom Tenney bit makes me laugh, because he was the flaws of Jae Lee dialed to 11. The Christian Alamy is alright, but I did faceplants with the Phil Jimenez and Barry Smith. You probably won't recognize Mike Iverson in the upper right, firstly due to his obscurity, and lastly because I did him no justice whatsoever. It makes me sad that he didn't make a better name for himself, especially since Jamie McKelvie is a constant reminder of his basic style.

Anyway, this isn't any great shakes, but I like looking at it from time to time.

Monday, November 12, 2012

nurghophonic jukebox: "I'm Not Your Toy" by La Roux

Written By: Elly Jackson and Ben Langmaid
Released: September 27, 2009
Album: La Roux
Single?: #27 on the UK chart

A few months back, I was on a synthpop kick, and remembered liking La Roux's breakout hit in the U.S., "Bulletproof." I combed the duo's YouTube video selection, and enjoyed much of it, despite Elly Jackson's thin voice. I figured I'd spotlight a tune here, but "Bulletproof" is well enough known, and "In For The Kill" turned up on trailers for Dredd 3D of all things. I like "I'm Not Your Toy" as a song, but dig the video even more. It's sweet and funny and sexy. See for yourself.

Love, love is like a stubborn youth
That you'd rather just annoy
I'm walking on a broken roof
While I'm looking at the sky

It's all false love and affection
You don't like me you just want the attention [repeat 2x]
I'm not your toy
This isn't another girl meets boy [repeat 2x]

Love, love I'm in a smoky light
I can never find the truth
Boy, your touches leave me mystified
I wish I could believe in you

Yes, it's all false love and affection
You don't like me you just want the attention [repeat 2x]
I'm not your toy
This isn't another girl meets boy [repeat 2x]
I'm not your toy
This isn't another girl meets boy [repeat 2x]

It's all false love and affection
You don't like me you just want the attention [repeat 2x]

[Instrumental Break]

I'm not your toy
This isn't another girl meets boy [repeat 2x]
I'm not your toy
This isn't another girl meets boy [repeat 2x]

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Wednesday Is For Also-Ran Mavericks For All I Care #163

Gambit #1 (2012)
Happy! #1
Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 (2012)
The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom #1

Gambit #1 (Marvel , 2012, $2.99)
Uncanny X-Men was a long time favorite of my youth, but I lost interest in the book from around "Fall of the Mutants" until after all those Siege Perilous off-shoots. You could tell Chris Claremont felt the same, or else he wouldn't have done all of that silly shit toward the end of that period, like turning Storm into a little girl and wiping everyone's memory. Anyway, the last phase of Claremont's long tenure was reinvigorated by the creative input of Jim Lee, before he was pushed off a franchise he'd built and nurtured for nearly two decades. Anyway, the point of my bringing that up was that I started reading the book again a couple of months before Lee's arrival, because I was intrigued by the arrival of the new character Gambit.

Despite shitty, boring art by Mike Collins and a pervy fandango costume that recalled Prince circa Dirty Mind, Gambit was clearly kewl, a vanguard of the '90s from before that was considered unfortunate. A manipulative, cool and sexy thief with an untold past and questionable motives, Remy LeBeau brought an excitement and mystery the book definitely needed. I'd outgrown my interest in Wolverine by that point, and overtures were made toward an ascendant Remy in the face of a waning Logan. Unfortunately, Claremont's exit saw a slew of hacks and incompetents race to fill the void, and Remy became mired in Guild lore, inappropriate/bad art, and a popular but momentum killing relationship with Rogue. LeBeau went from being one of the most famous X-Men among the general public (thanks to the cartoon) to a has-been with countless underwhelming mini-series and a pair of failed ongoing attempts.

James Asmus and Clay Mann figure to run with a third series attempt. In the nuMarvel manner, the Gambit logo now looks like a font, in the instances where a costume is worn it is understated, and super-heroics are downplayed in favor of real world action comparable to a big budget TV series. Passing nods are made to X-Men continuity, but this book is about revisiting the o.g. Remy LeBeau's recidivism into rhymin' and stealin'. For the sake of the character, that's refreshing, but the actual book is purely a pauper's Bruckner life with art that is much too good for a Dynamite comic, though that's exactly what it recalls. Thoroughly unexceptional, I wish better fortunes on attempt quatre, mes amis.

Happy! #1 (Image, 2012, $2.99)
In spite of myself, I enjoyed this book. It's clearly Grant Morrison doing a Garth Ennis impersonation, including borrowing his The Boys collaborator Darick Robertson. It's kind of appropriate then that despite having a very distinctive pencil style, Robertson's ink technique is so indebted to George Pérez that you'd be forgiven for thinking this was a Sachs & Violens sequel. The hitman protagonist (see-- it's an Ennis book) is even named Nick Sax. "Nick?" Get it? Put simply, the story is "Léon meets Roger Rabbit," a premise which should be worth a reasonably priced trade collecting all four issues.

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 (Dynamite, 2012, $3.99)
When I was a wee lad, I bought a coverless copy of an issue of Thunderbolt (probably #58,) which introduced me to Peter Cannon, Sarge Steel (via a back-up,) and the Charlton Comics Group as a whole. If I recognized Captain Atom, Blue Beetle or Judomaster during Crisis on Infinite Earths, it was probably because of this one comic. I've always liked lesser lights, and while Cannon was probably too clean cut for my taste, I really liked the graceful line of artist P.A.M. and the Johnny Quest vibe of the title. When DC bought the Charlton Action Heroes, we got Watchmen, the surprisingly long-lived and exciting Captain Atom, the very best work of Denny O'Neil & Denys Cowan's careers on The Question, the fairly retarded Peacemaker and just about dick for Peter. See, "P.A.M." was in the unique position of retaining rights to Thunderbolt after the sale, and when DC did bother to do a new book, it was an obligatory attempt to retain their own rights before they permanently reverted back to creator Pete Morisi.

I've long hoped that the day would come when a quality publisher licensed the rights from Pete Morisi's estate to do a proper revival, hopefully with someone with retro cache like Steve Rude or Mike Allred. Instead, Dynamite Entertainment snatched up the rights, and if anyone today represents the bottom feeding, "keep the presses rolling" aesthetic of Charlton for most of its dreary existence, Nick Barrucci owns it. The revamp of the character is credited to Alex Ross, which like all Alex Ross writing projects (and Geoff Johns', for that matter,) should require an asterisk in the byline noting that the whole thing was a throwaway notion of Alan Moore's that was just a wink at a minor literary theft in the first place. If you were to combine Dynamite's debut issue of Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt with the first edition of Len Wein & Jae Lee's Before Watchmen: Ozymandias, you'd have more or less the same comic. Like a 9/11 truther, Ross and the guy forced to actually work a keyboard, Steve Darnall, only researched the original comics to provide canonical fodder for analogues of Watchmen's analogues of Charlton's analogues of Marvel characters. Darnell even writes a text piece called "Pete's Dragon" lauding noted hack Pat Boyette's grievous misinterpretation of Thunderbolt's powers in a shoddy 1967 fill-in issue as divine inspiration for porting the space squid from DC. In the second issue, maybe he can applaud Avril Lavigne's magnum opus, "Girlfriend," or t.A.T.u.'s bold reworking of "How Soon Is Now?"

The leads story in Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 is plain fucking boring. I remember a review of Marcus McLaurin's Cage #1 where the lead character was drowning in a vat of chemicals on the splash page, but there were so many dense caption boxes surround the image that the critic noted it look like Luke was actually being swallowed up in gratuitous verbiage. Most of the panels here are at least 25% talky-talky-talky, but many are a 40/60 split, with word and text swapping places in the majority. Aside from three pages of action where Thunderbolt vogues like a Power Ranger in battle with the dragon, the entire book is about telling you how much this Peter Cannon is like Adrian Veidt, and how slyly analogues for the 100% DC owned Captain Atom, General Eiling, and even another run at Rip Jagger's young ward Tiger being an antagonistic martial arts Kid Miracleman. Since Ross surrounds himself with the sort of shrill liberals that make modern conservatism seem like a legitimate option, we also get cackling evil Military-Industrial Complex types and not-Veidt meets not-Scott Van Duzer. Alex Ross offers a bold new character design for Peter Cannon: Epic Fail and his cast-offs from Project: Superpowers, while the art is slightly above Dynamite standards, though still slightly below everyone else who publishes comics in North America.

All bitching aside, this debut issue was totally worth buying, especially at 41 story pages for $4. Mark Waid offers a text introduction to the "Thunderbolt Ashcan," a nineteen page original story he commissioned from Pete Morisi for DC's Secret Origins when he was editing the title in the late '80s. By that point, a revival for the character in the aborted Comics Cavalcade Weekly had long since been nixed, and Mike Collins' lifeless (yet still better than Dynamite's) attempt was a few years away. Aside from giving Cannon leggings that made him more closely resemble his primary influence, Lev Gleason's Daredevil, Morisi had a free hand to revisit Cannon's '60s origin however he liked. The result was a story more fun and fresh than anything in the front of the book, despite being obviously derivative of the '30s pulp heroes Dynamite also publishes, not to mention countless other blatant influences. Morisi was basically a George Tuska clone, but with a bit more of an Alex Toth delicacy, and considerably less command of anatomy and composition than either. Still, the joyous simplicity of the storytelling on display is a delight, and Morisi would have surely shown up whatever creative team his piece was conjoined with had it run as intended over two decades ago. Comics aren't high art on their best day, and it just goes to show that an unpretentious, largely unheralded craftsman like P.A.M. still had more innate talent for ripping yarns than most of the tedious twats warking in the industry today.

The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom #1 (IDW, 2012, $3.99)
Talking of Mark Waid, he does a decent job of capturing the spirit of Dave Stevens' writing on The Rocketeer. Remember how Disney tried to ride the coattails of Tim Burton's first Batman movie, and when Dickmania failed to catch on (as if Tracy,) they really bombed out when they chased that with The Rocketeer? Despite the strip be responsible for Bettie Page's modern day cult following, and Stevens' being a glorious artist who is much missed, who really gives a fuck about a period piece involving a pussy-whipped flyboy protagonist who looks like a hood ornament? The conceit of the series was to do a '40s Saturday afternoon serial with a script more akin to a pre-Hayes screwball comedy, allowing Stevens ample opportunity to draw saucy pin-ups and bitchin' cars/planes. That wasn't a particular strong formula when it was cooked up in 1982, and it's strictly your grandpa's stick nostalgia porn thirty years later. I like Chris Samnee's art as much as the next guy, but nobody wants to see him obscure areolas or reheat Hergé in a toaster oven. Give the guy something worth doing, because on a book as irrelevant as the Rocketeer, it's Dave Stevens or GTFO.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Frank Review of "Sinister" (2012)

The Short Version? The Amityville Book of 8mm Shadows.
What Is It? Attempted horror franchise starter.
Who Is In It? Ethan Hawke
Should I See It? Probably not.

Full disclosure: Would I have gone to a cinema to see an Ethan Hawke haunted house movie of my own volition? Dude, I wouldn't even have watched it free on cable. No flies on Hawke, who co-starred in a couple of my favorite movies, but I've heard secondhand that he's an awful writer and have seen firsthand that his choices of material to star in leave a lot to be desired. Even when he tackles an interesting experiment, like Richard Linklater's Tape, Hawke's attempts to play anyone but Ethan Hawke tend to be painfully hammy. As for ghost stories, well, I don't believe in them, they don't scare me, and I was bored by The Shining, a supposed horror classic. I went to work, I spent a few hours shopping, and then I saw a by-the-numbers spook show that Hawke was okay in and I don't describe as something I "endured" at my girlfriend's urging.

Ethan Hawke plays Ethan Hawke as a writer who had one major success published and is chasing an elusive second. Since that is one more authorial triumph than Hawke himself has managed, consider the cosplay therapeutic for the actor. Juliet Rylance plays his attractive wife who hasn't appeared in anything you've seen. Her performance is decent, but she has a distracting English accent. I can buy a one-hit wonder writer bagging a Brit, but the accent feels out of place. Each of her children have longer and stronger CVs, no accent to speak of, and the son has longer hair than the mother despite their not being rednecks or hair metal enthusiasts. The movie is itself fond of derivatives from Trent Reznor's Nine Inch Nails instrumentals, with dubstep elements adding period flavor.

Dad moves everybody to the murder house where a whole family was murdered because murder to write a murder book about their murders. Crusty republican senator Fred Thompson plays a crusty backwater sheriff whose attempts to run the clan off bookend the movie, by which I mean he's in two scenes. His presence is felt when a deputy played by James Ransone (alternating his characterization between Andy Griffith and Barney Fife) has to help the writer with his book in secret, even though he occasionally drives his police car into the driveway in a small town to have long chats in broad daylight. Deputy So-And-So (that's literally what they call him for most of the flick) is the exposition monkey, awkward and dumb when comic relief is helpful, a brilliant criminologist when required by the plot to explain to the writer that he is so fucked and the calls are coming from inside the house. Tavis Smiley and Vincent D'Onofrio are available for solid cameos.

If you've seen a trailer to Sinister (there are a few of them, and one is a few inches up on this very screen,) you've basically seen the movie. All of the advertising materials are spoilery as fuck. Between them and a rudimentary knowledge of the genre, you should be able to figure out every single turn of the plot right up to the "surprise" ending that can be easily worked out in the first act. There's is a sickening inevitability to it all, but no one is especially sympathetic (or well developed as a character,) so your level of investment in their collective fate may run to nil. Otherwise, the horror is all based around building to the jump scares that are used to sell the picture. I was startled several times, not because of building tension, but because I would start to doze off and then a THX-blasted musical cue would jolt me awake. Engaging the autonomic nervous system in a semiconscious subject does not constitute any real accomplishment on the filmmakers part.

Where the acting is journeyman and the script could have been constituted from lines taken out of other scripts, what holds it together as something palatable is the stylish direction of Scott Derrickson. Slick editing, smart visual ticks, and strong pacing sell through presentation what at its core is a rote story. If you like McParanormal's, these are value priced frights as comfortingly reliable as chicken nuggets, but with a tangy new dipping sauce. If you're more adventurous though, that predictability will likely aggravate more than agitate in the intended manner.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Wednesday Is Undead & Undressed For All I Care #162

Black Kiss 2 #1
Night of the Living Dead: Day of the Undead
Revival #2
Revival #3

Black Kiss 2 #1 (Image, 2012, $2.99)
Despite buying my fair share of porno/hentai comics in the '90s, I managed to miss Thick Black Kiss, not to mention the smaller trades and single issues. In fact, I've read my fair share of Howard Chaykin, but managed to miss all the First Comics stuff for which he's been most praised. Those admissions having been made, I've never really been wowed by Chaykin's writing, his preferred depiction of the ladies aren't mine, and long form narratives with pornographic content tend to frustrate both the intellect and the libido. I wasn't exactly going into this sequel with high hopes.

I didn't really "get" this issue, but I did enjoy it (but not enjoy enjoy.) There's some quaint old-timey bigotry during rude acts, and men prove as susceptible to tentacle rape as the girl for a nice change of pace. You can see where Black Kiss probably suckled Quinn & Vigil's Faust, and how latter day depredations have likely nurtured Chaykin's current offenses. I really do feel like I'm missing something for having skipped the first volume-- like this is a prequel where I understand what's happening at the most essential level, but everyone's winking over my shoulders. Halfway through, we get an '80s sex comedy redressed for the Titanic, plus boy-rape as character motivation in a gender-bend on '70s tropes. It was interesting enough of a tease that I'd consider a heavily discounted trade, but it's not money enough for me to pony up on the high end.

Night of the Living Dead: Day of the Undead (Avatar, 2012, $2.99)
This was solicited as a three buck graphic novel, which is misleading. It's 64 pages of short story reprint material and squarebound, which sounds like an old "Prestige Format" annual to me. Given that Avatar usually sells a standard comic for $4, and their substantial trades break the twenty dollar barrier, I'll take it for whatever it is.

Movie co-writer John Russo offers "Just A Girl," which is adapted into the comics format by Mike Wolfer, who is the writer and artist of the other two stories presented here. The finished art is by Edison George, which is more realist but less stylized than Wolfer while in the same wheelhouse. "Girl" takes the iconic child from the seminal film and gives Karen Cooper an overwrought origin. I get that Harry was no picnic as a father, but he was a common controlling asshole in the movie. Here, he and wife Helen are so thoroughly demonized, that subscribing to its assertions takes away from the transgressive horror the original work traded in. The subtext of the relationship in 1968 was America's children turning on and devouring their parents-- the corruption and disintegration of the nuclear family. The layers of ham-fisted psychobabble here turn Karen into Rorschach, seeking divine retribution against her Dickensian upbringing. It's expanded universe drivel, as harmful a parasite on the franchise as John Russo himself.

Wolfer's tale from a 2011 Annual delivers a text opening and the premise that rather than the global apocalypse of the Romero movies, Avatar's Night series are about random isolated outbreaks that are dealt with like unnatural disasters. A couple of traveling hippies get stuck in a house with ruthless rednecks, shit gets fucked up, and then there's a swift, violent, pat resolution. Now, the first story had some zombie nudity that played with a brief, minor episode of naked flesh in the film. This second story goes out of its way to show T&A, living and undead, often with repugnant surroundings. Incidental nudity can be jarring in this setting, but when it's blatantly exploitative, it simply heightens my qualms with a lackluster, LCD story.

Wolfer's final story, "Do Not Open Until Christmas" from a Holiday Special, was the best of the bunch. Like Night, it takes place in a period long past, but because it was contemporary in its time, it doesn't wallow in fashion fetishism. Sideburns and thick rimmed glasses date the piece, but it's more period verisimilitude than nostalgia run rampant. This is also very much an EC horror tale with punishing morals, flavored more like the '70s British films than the comics, which lends a welcome structure previously lacking. There's more sex here than ever, a staple of Wolfer's CV, but the plot supports the titillation. This adds potency, since the lovemaking creates vulnerability which invites terror. For the price, this was a peachy collection, but that last treat was the real cherry on top.

Revival #2 (Image, 2012, $2.99)
I had a multiple month gap between reading the first and second issues of this book, which isn't a good idea for a tightly wound supernatural neo-noir in the early stages of introducing characters and situations. Still, it's small town cops trying to deal with quasi-zombies, which is easier to keep a handle on. I haven't plugged into anyone yet, which is about par for a mystery, rather than survivalist horror with a proxy POV. I do like Abel, the shitbag hired hand for paranormal dealings, who fits perfectly into this scenario. I also dig the hardboiled sexual politics, and the increasingly fucked psychology of Em. I think I'd rather follow this in chunks rather than monthly though, as it's easy to miss details as the memory fogs with time.

Revival #3 (Image, 2012, $2.99)
Another nasty issue, filling in details with one hand while obfuscating with the other. The characters introduced last issue are fleshed out as whole new sides of town come into play. The balance was a bit off though, making this the least satisfying issue so far. I'm continuing to have trouble with Mike Norton's art as well. It's not like when I read the first trade collection of Tony Moore's Walking Dead, and then slammed into Charlie Adlard's debut issue. It was more like when I went back years later to that trade, and realized Moore could have never gotten as deep, dark and gritty as Adlard. Norton's art is very pretty and friendly, which is a bad combination for noir and completely cushions any horror elements. I very much want to look at Norton's lovely art and swell storytelling, but it is at cross purposes with the story, because it's so light where it needs to be taunt. There's whole sequence where a naked old lady zombie is bleeding out her orifices and threatening newborns, but the art registers "safe." The book is doing well and co-owned, so I don't see Norton going anywhere. Tom Seeley is quite a writerly writer here for a guy most still think of as an artist. I plan to stick around for a while, but I have this nagging feeling this dissonance between story and presentation will gnaw at my investment over time.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Frank Review of "Children of the Living Dead" (2001)

The Short Version? Bad sequel! Bad! BAD!
What Is It? Awful.
Who Is In It? Tom Savini, ish.
Should I See It? Fuck no.

Let me see if I can explain this. The original theatrical distributor of Night of the Living Dead failed to assert copyright on prints of the film, causing it to fall immediately into the public domain. It's kind of interesting, because the flesh-eating undead went on to become part of horror mythology. The lack of copyright restriction probably helped the popular conception of "zombies" to join Dracula, Frankenstein, and werewolves in common use amidst the pantheon of terrors. Of course, what made Night great was the talent on display, with writer/director George A. Romero going on to make a slew of sequels, one of which arguably surpassed the original. Less pivotal was John Russo, who produced, co-wrote and directed Night. Russo wrote a sequel novel in 1977 which influenced the creation of the Return of the Living Dead franchise. The book only contributed the title though.

Night was remade in 1990 by Tom Savini, who had been a special effects artist and actor on one of the Romero sequels. In 1999, Russo recut the original Night and filmed new scenes that were inserted for the poorly received Night of the Living Dead: 30th Anniversary Edition. Russo then produced a sequel to the recut, Children of the Living Dead, which featured Tom Savini as an actor playing a character with a passing resemblance to his role in a Romero sequel, but different. Also, Children has some plot points that nod toward Russo's Return of the Living Dead novel.

Okay, whether or not you found the previous two paragraphs interesting, I assure you that reading them took way less time than seeing Children of the Living Dead, which you should not do under any circumstance. Zombie movies aren't known for quality, but even by their dismal standards, the film is dire. Every discipline in filmmaking is given a black eye by this thing. Acting, writing, direction, cinematography, continuity, lighting, stunts, make-up, special effects-- all subpar by fan film standards. I guess the score could have been worse.

In the town where the dead rose in 1968 because of space radiation, occasional outbreaks of living deadness occur and are put down by the local yokels. A serial killing rapist from the mid-80s named Abbot Hayes stole his motivation from Sleepaway Camp and/or Psycho before getting caught and killed. The dude somehow not only got zombified, but becomes the master zombie. He's got claws and can turn a corpse into a zombie henchman instantaneously with one bite. You'd think in Zombie Town, they'd institute mandatory cremation, but instead leave corpses by the half dozen lying around to join the horde.

Besides introducing Zombie Dracula, another wrinkle is added by making zombies disinterested in eating children. That sure flew in the face of Dawn of the Dead and Return of the Living Dead Part II, but it doesn't seem to have any logical importance beyond helping to establish the movie title, and gets dropped in the first half hour. Zombie Dracula then borrows from Freddy Krueger by going after the kids who survived the outbreak he started in the '80s. That also might seem important, especially when they turn out to be the cast of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but that actually wraps up in short order.

After two false starts, what passes for lead characters begin the main story properly better than a half hour in. What occurred prior was all set up, and proves fairly nonsensical, since the second half hour is little more than a series of set pieces where nobodies get gang-eaten by the zombies. The last half hour connects the dots from the first, which was unnecessary, since the through line was obvious and the characters are total cyphers regardless of their role in the events.

Tom Savini is the best thing in the flick, but despite getting top billing, he's gone after fifteen minutes. Martin Schiff plays a kind of cowardly sheriff who shows up throughout the movie, but I wouldn't characterize him as a lead, exactly. He's got either an enormous strawberry birthmark under his right eye or a nasty scab that lasted fourteen years, and it is seriously fucking distracting. I suppose Damien Luvara and Jamie McCoy are supposed to be the stars, but they are such personality voids that they seem to dampen the charisma of others in their immediate area. There are other people who could technically be billed as actors, but they barely register as people.

The movie seems to run for a prescribed lack of time, then stop. There's no real resolution, and another sequel that nobody will ever film is set up. I don't know why you would make it all the way to the credits, but there's a random, pointless post sequence. I often find myself angry when a movie squanders good will or potential, but this film is so bad so early that it's your own damned fault for sticking with it.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Wednesday Is A Zero Month For All I Care #0

Atlas Unified #0
Ghost #0
Stormwatch #0 (2012)
Talon #0

I paid for a minimal amount of December shipping books from my longtime supplier just before their cut-off date. They've provided my comics for a decade, but I got this month's box o'books hours after placing that order. I also placed my first, overdue order with the bigger name competitor, which offered more titles at a better deal with a vastly superior website and hopefully will not sit on my shit with garbage excuses that make me question whether the motherfuckers are going out of business. I tell you this because I've also delayed reading and reviewing the books I did have for months, so this column should feel like a short jump time capsule for a while yet...

Atlas Unified #0 Prelude: Midnight (Ardden Entertainment, 2012, $2.99)
Back in the mid-seventies, after Martin Goodman had sold his stake in Marvel Comics, he tried to create a competitor line by overpaying uncommitted moonlighting freelancers to hack out awful curiosities without any confidence or direction. For a month or two, The Scorpion would be a 1930s pulp pastiche by Howard Chaykin, and the next Jim Craig's doing a contemporary spandex-clad Spider-Man riff. That sort of thing. Actually, everything they did ended up as a transparent lift of a premise another company was already doing better, if only by virtue of the minimum competency required to draft something worth ripping off in the first place. One of their longest lived titles with any integrity was Vicki, mostly because it was reprinting Tower Comics' 1960s Archie wannabe Trippy Teen with clothing redrawn to better match the times. These Seaboard Periodicals lined discount bins of the Bronze Age the way over ordered, undercooked Image/Valiant titles would in the days of Chromium. The Atlas line was similarly derivative, low rent birdcage liner that nonetheless generated nostalgic nerds who mourned its dubious unrealized potential.

Atlas Unified would dearly love to be Unity, but it's more like Red Skies Monthly. If you don't catch the reference, Unity was Valiant's successful event series that managed to connect all their disparate properties from various points in time into one well received narrative. Red-pink colored skies were a simple method DC Comics used to foreshadow the countless, obligatory, tenuous and tedious tie-ins to their Crisis on Infinite-Earths maxi-series. Here, a Borg ship with tentacles appears in the air above ridiculous Bronze Age loser protagonists with amateurish logos and zaps them with a ray across seventeen repetitive pages. Despite being inherently shitty, Tom Peyer goes through the motions with charm and occasionally even grace, despite Jimbo Salgado's art looking like something you'd scrawl on notebook paper during history class. Vicki probably gets the worst of it, once a Stan Goldberg Betty becomes a brunette hybrid of the most inexpensive Marc Silvestri/Todd McFarlane clone hanging out with a dude rocking nu-metal facial hair in an unconvincing representation of 1975. That said, it's a mostly painless, amusing read that yet manages to make an ironclad argument for why these concepts are so worthless as to defy the falsehood that they rate a revival any more than they deserved their initial hubristic launch.

Ghost #0 (Dark Horse, 2012, $2.99)
The most successful property in Dark Horse's deservedly forgotten Comics Greatest World initiative rode the Bad Girl wave into two separate volumes and featured regular interior art by the likes of Adam Hughes, John Cassaday and Ivan Reis while still managing to fail inside of five years. In her defense, Ghost's simple pitch concept of an avenging spirit works fine, and her downfall can largely be attributed to an ill-conceived relaunch involving a complete restaffing and focus on the risible expanded CGW universe. This revival of Ghost keeps the basic look and attitude, even recycling the logo, but appears to offer a new heroine from a fresh creative team getting back to the simple thrill of a hot chick killing the hell out of bad guys. This issue reprints a three part introductory story previously serialized in Dark Horse Presents. Phil Noto's artwork is if anything stiffer than ever, but he does put a bit more effort into backgrounds, such as they are. The individual chapters don't exact flow together either (Where did that second gunman go?) but the new characters work and a reasonable story engine is constructed. Marvel Comics have been kicking a lot of work Kelly Sue DeConnick's way, and while I can't recall being exposed to her scripting in the past, her efforts here were strong enough to ensure I'll keep an eye out for her name in future credits.

Stormwatch #0 (DC, 2012, $2.99)
I decided to use DC's Zero Month version 2.0 as my exit point from following the series, and it served to remind me of all the dropped subplots and missed opportunities the book represents. Besides firming up ties to Demon Knights and introducing a bunch of Century Babies that really didn't need to be named variations on "Jenny," the only reason to publish this was to set up some apocalyptic future that we all know will never come to pass. Will Conrad's art recalls Mike Deodato's better work, and Peter Milligan's script is more palatable here than in his earlier issues. Still, homogenized Authority rendered safe for mass consumption is nothing more than it sounds like.

Talon #0 (DC, 2012, $2.99)
It would take more words than I care to invest to express how little interest I have in reading a spin-off series from a Batman Family event, so suffice to say that this is a high quality product for its ability to overcome this massive obstacle to win my approval. You could draw up a graph to clearly illustrated how by-the-numbers the plot by James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder is in conveying a proven formula to win over audiences. While that level of calculation might have alienated me elsewhere, in the stumbling idiot medium of comics, the effective employment of fundamental storytelling is laudable. Where everyone had been expecting New 52 Azrael, this origin story has all the strength of a classic Kirby character like Mister Miracle, because it's the exact same origin scrubbed clean of any New Gods references. Again, in the world of comics, obvious unapologetic theft is forgivable so long as the end product is worth what was paid for it. As another example, Guillem March is more obviously the child of Joe Kubert than either of his birth sons, both infected by the syphilitic influence of Homage Studios. March's deviations involve seduction by European masters like Jordi Bernet and Guido Crepax, which is to say that March is a better Kubert than anyone bearing that name thanks to his fluidity, more intricate but clear layouts, and sensuality. Talon is in no way shape or form original, but it is so very much better than it deserves to be.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Frank Review of "Dredd 3D" (2012)

The Short Version? "The Raid: Redemption" (2011)
What Is It? Comic booky sci-fi action.
Who Is In It? Eomer, Leah from Juno, Sarah Connor v2.0
Should I See It? No.

I saw Dredd a couple of weeks ago, on the same disappointing day I caught Looper. I rushed one of those reviews out because it was still a relatively new release, while Dredd was already a confirmed failure with a global take of less than half its fifty million dollar production budget. With low energy and little time, this one could wait. Based on other reviews I read, you'd have thought otherwise. People kept toting it as redemptive of the comic book franchise run aground with its first attempt, the 1995 Sylvester Stallone bomb Judge Dredd (which still managed to earn more than its budget, 2½ times that of Dredd 3D when adjusted for inflation.) Both films made the fatal mistake of taking their subject matter seriously, where the British comics have survived for thirty-five years thanks to their violent satirizing of exactly these sorts of movies. All in all, Demolition Man and Robocop are still better Judge Dredd movies than any featuring the actual character.

In a nuke ravaged future, the surviving masses huddle in squalid tenements that reach up to the skies in the massive Mega-City One. With crime epidemic, the law is doled out by motorcycle riding fascistic executioners called Judges, of which Dredd is hardest. On this particular day, he's saddled with a new graduate from the Judge program named Anderson, who technically failed, but is given a pass by the brass because she's a mutant with psychic powers. However, Dredd will be the ultimate judge of her fitness for the position through a one day ride along. Called to a slum highrise to investigate drug-related murders, Dredd and Anderson are eventually trapped, as everyone in the building either hides or comes gunning for them. There have been a number of extended epic storylines in the Judge Dredd comics, which the 1995 movie tried and terrifically failed to emulate. This film is closer to the short stories Dredd is more commonly featured in. However, those tales typically have a novel hook and a few laughs to carry them over a half dozen pages. This flick tries to apply the exact same ammunition across ninety minutes.

Dredd is actually a stealth Psi-Judge Anderson movie, referring to the spin-off heroine who tended to be featured in more straightforward dramatic stories. When Dredd works, it's usually because it's focusing on Anderson-- her powers, her conflicts, the lovely actress Olivia Thirlby. Unfortunately, Karl Urban's Judge Dredd is comically arch in a movie without a sense of humor, and his taking up the lion's share of the screen time renders it a joyless affair. Aside from Anderson's telepathic adventures, the only other kick is the use of Slo-Mo, a drug that alters the perception of time. There's one excellent sequence of a massacre rendered in this deliberate, stylish fashion, but its every other usage was more in line with the tedious bullet time sequences in the Matrix sequels. This was without a doubt the worst 3D movie I've ever seen in a theater. Wally Pfister may have called out Marvel's The Avengers for arbitrarily shooting angles solely for the 3D, but I'll take that over the dull flatness of Dredd in every respect, but especially in its shoddy employment of its named gimmick. I remember exactly three instances of notable 3D: a credit sequence moment of Dredd getting dressed with his elbow sticking way out, a scene in a restaurant where a chicken carcass hung on a hook, and an air-conditioning mount that was clearly ahead of the Judges in a hallway. The film is dark, so most of these three images were near entirely silhouetted.

Lena Headey gives a much better performance as the kingpin Ma-Ma than is on the page, but the rest of the actors are as stock as written. Alex Garland, who previously got a screenwriting credit for cobbling together bits of zombie movies into 28 Days Later, offers a perfunctory action script which when translated through the lens director Pete Travis is indistinguishable from any other random Redbox selection of comparable budget. There's maybe ten minutes of film worth sitting through, so someone should make a totally boss YouTube sizzle cut and leave the rest of this boring number on the floor.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Wednesday Is A Month Later Than Usual For All I Care #161

Anti #1
Before Watchmen: Rorschach #1
The Creep #0
National Comics: Looker #1

I've been working goddamned near non-stop for weeks, plus thirteen days into the month, and Mail Order Comics still hasn't gotten me my September book shipment. I hate the fucking slow loading site of theirs, too. That place really went to shit with the new owners...

Anti #1 (12-Gauge, 2012, $1.00)
I read half of this book months ago as part of 12-Gauge's Free Comic Book Day offering, so it couldn't help but lose receptive momentum as I reread the rerun to progress to the relatively predictable new. Peter Calloway's script starts off promisingly dark, but ultimately sacrifices exposition for action, and enough of the premise is teased not to seem inspired. So far, it's a more callous Trinity recruiting a more compromised Neo to fight demonic agents. Artist Daniel Hillyard does a solid Leinil Yu impersonation in the first half, then decides to switch references with Frank Quitely, so colorist Charlie Kirchoff is forced to blend the disparate styles as best he can. It doesn't help that the art gets more funky junky as the one man jam progresses. It's still better than most starfucker books where hired hands flesh out the ideas of a movie producer whose name gets on the cover while the legitimate creators' do not.

Before Watchmen: Rorschach #1 (DC, 2012, $3.99)
In 1986, Alan Moore revised the Question to more fully embody creator Steve Ditko's objectivist philosophy while sending up such right-think by making his analogue a stinky, ugly little creep who subsisted on cold beans straight from the can before being sent to prison. The new Rorschach solo mini-series is too obviously a cynical cash grab on Brian Azzarello's part to even pretend at making an effort at satire. This is the exact same urban vigilante recycling of Death Wish that you've been reading since you first discovered comics. There's a serial killer who carves messages into his victims' flesh, 42nd Street is still a red light district littered with junkie whores and peepshows, criminals are Dick Tracy grotesques who hang out in subway tunnels and the bad guys beat the hero within an inch of his life so that he can come back for revenge. In short, bone tired bullshit that ran its course during the era it lazily invokes. The only reason for this comic to exist is that Lee Bermejo is pretty much the only photorealistic artist who isn't just tossing Google images into a Photoshop filter and calling it comics. I want to put my dick in his artwork, it's so fine, but not without a condom, because it's pretty sleazy too. There's also a two page "Curse of the Crimson Corsair" installment, because that's still happening, even though I totally can't remember reading it.

The Creep #0 (Dark Horse, 2012, $2.99)
It felt like this comic had more story heft than most modern debut issues, so of course that means it actually collected three installments of a serialized story from Dark Horse Presents. It makes a pretty good case against following the anthology title, since I'd be pissed if I was given six months worth of previews only to be forced to continue my reading elsewhere. Anyway, all three bits read as one piece seamlessly, and I enjoyed the writing and art. John Arcudi basically transplants golden age Hollywood actor Rondo Hatton into a 1980s neo-noir, making his acromegaly a sticking point for the sympathetic character. The only fault in Jonathan Case's art is that his Creep is too human and handsome to seem at all off-putting. I appreciated his shifts in style from Vertigo-cartoony in the main story to hazy watercolor memories/delusions. I could definitely see buying this in trade paperback.

National Comics: Looker #1 (DC, 2012, $3.99)
Falling below the bar set by Kid Eternity in premise and execution, Looker is about a former supermodel forced to run her own agency after being bitten by a vampire. That's a concept that starts off bad, gets convoluted with successive layers of additional badness, but never manages to loop around under the weight of ridiculous tropes to becoming so-bad-it's-good. You just sort of marvel at the earnestness of the dumb ideas and shady pilfered characters like Stanley Tucci reprising the role of Nigel in The Devil Wears Prada.

The saving grace is the evolving art of Mike S. Miller. I always liked his work, even though he was one of those stylists who produced drawings of comic book characters in comic books of a a certain style that looked drawn. During his "Please Forget What I said About Homosexuality" hiatus from people paying him for pages, he's clearly taken a long hard look at guys like Kevin Maguire, Jeff Johnson and Art Adams. While he's still not as good as any of those guys, and integration of their elements have blurred the distinctiveness of Miller's old style, the results are quite attractive. If he can better synthesize his influences and add more innovative flair to launch from their base, Miller could become a force to be reckoned with. It's rare to see artists as far into their career as Miller clearly, actively work to improve themselves, but those that pull it off are the stuff of legends.


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