Monday, January 30, 2012

Gakuen Mokushiroku: Highschool of the Dead

The Short Version? Highschool unDead
What Is It?Action Horror T&A Cartoon
Who Is In It? Nobody.
Should I See It? No.

Back in October when the second season of The Walking Dead began airing, AMC also ran a Halloween-themed movie marathon (if a movie a day qualifies.) They were going to show Survival of the Dead, which I had yet see, hosted by George A. Romero. After the season premiere of Walking, and probably during my chilly reception to The Talking Dead, I decided that I would finally stream Survival off Netflix instead of bothering with the edited broadcast version with its commercial interruptions. As tends to be the case with Netflix, as soon as I decide to watch something, it's no longer available, and I was instead left with Highschool of the Dead. Like most people, I have the lifelong scars from those days that still allows me to love Heathers and Brick, so I decided to check it out.

I have tried to get into legitimate anime (as opposed to the Americanized stuff I grew up on like Battle of the Planets and Robotech) since the early nineties, but what little tickled my fancy tended to be the most prurient in nature. Zombie fiction though, I've loved since grade school. I'll give even the most rotten looking zombie shit half a chance, and combining flesh eating with somebody's freshman year seems like a chocolate and peanut butter combination. It was the anime part I had the most reservations about, since I find the stuff that gets animated in Japan and shipped to the U.S. tends to target the lowest common denominator in both cultures. Gakuen Mokushiroku: Highschool of the Dead is a rare and spectacular work of agitprop artistry, in that in manages to synthesize the very worst aspects of every genre it approaches to simultaneously serve as the nadir of each, tacitly proposing the abolition of all three.

For instance, I'm a big supporter of the shambling undead, as I prefer the psychological impact of creeping inevitability over the adrenaline rush of fast zombies. Gakuen Mokushiroku mostly favors old school shambling, but only in the form of lackadaisical predictability, repeating every hoary cliche and rendering the undead's victims painfully incompetent non-entities. However, these guys will get their run on occasionally, and with one exception, they're all of the bite-beat-turned variety. You don't get to see the slow, painful deterioration of bite victims, but even after they go all "rage virus" on you, they're pussy imbecile zombies that can easily be outrun, outsmarted, and outfought. There's no emotional component-- they're video game cannon fodder.

Gakuen Mokushiroku also represents the worst in anime. The "humor" is so painfully sophomoric and obvious that it's nearly invisible, beyond the tropes signalling "this is humorous," like nosebleeds in sexual situations and reaction shots to a sarcastic "burn." There's a ton of violence, but not a bit of it has any more impact than, again, the 8-bit bloodletting of an "edgy" eighties video game. Everyone turns out to be some form of archaic weapons master, and swordfighting with the living dead seems like shooting fish in a barrel. The character designs are totally prefab, seen countless times elsewhere, aside from maybe the chubby dork sharpshooter. The characters are completely shallow, and the plotting is mind-numbingly by the numbers. If you've seen one episode, you've seen them all. Adding to this feeling is that each twenty-five minute installment includes three minutes of obnoxious credits that you have to sit through to get to epilogues whose substance is largely reiterated in the next episode. Hell, there was even a "clip show" about four episodes in the catch up all their latecoming viewers.Finally, aside from one nude sequence midway through the twelve episode run, the sex here is all sizzle and no steak. Every bit of cleavage bearing, pantie flashing fan service is packed into each episode, without any of it being remotely titillating. I was shocked by that nude sequence, but only because I thought the show was designed for twelve year olds without internet access, because even the most desperate pubescent could scrounge up better stroke material out of Sears circulars or daytime television. The excesses of the show destroy any stroke value (for instance, the internet gif where a bullet in Matrix-style passes between a woman's individually swaying breasts.)

In the high school sub-genre, there has rarely been a less appealing gag than having one newly hunky fan-insertion protagonist lusted after by girls from every (hair) color in the rainbow. There's a mean bossy girl, an ex-girlfriend next door, the mystifying femme, the dumb blond bimbo-- all with tits bigger than their heads. They have names, I suppose, but they're all just types defined solely in one dimension. The voice acting is performed by the same faceless, indistinct lot behind every forgettable anime, and their performances are broad, flat, and grating. While there are students and teachers, the action leaves the actual high school fairly early, and there's little about that setting that impacts on the semblance of a story. It's every crappy teen flick in set-up, but in execution it's just every crappy zombie movie and/or anime.

Gakuen Mokushiroku: Highschool of the Dead is so wretched, I took finishing it as an endurance test that took me several months and the threat of lapsing off Netflix to complete. Unsurprisingly, while a few subplots are resolved, the mini-series is left wide open for a continuation. After slogging through the banality of this farce, you can't even expect the satisfaction of a complete story with any sort of finality. This is like one long introduction to the most tired franchise characters possible in a genre mash-up that makes potted meat product out of the detritus of its influences. I watched the whole thing, and my life was lessened by the time flushed away during my malignant exposure.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Wednesday Is Debutie For All I Care #133

The Defenders #1 (2012)
Valen the Outcast #1
Witch Doctor: The Resuscitation #1

Defenders #1 (Marvel, 2012, $3.99)
16--18-- yeah, that's twenty pages for four bucks. I thought I'd at least get a few extra pages for the dollar difference against all those DC New 52 titles, but nope. See, I think most of those DC books suck, but I'll at least try them for a few months. That dollar has made the difference in my not trying a Marvel book I thought I might like so many fucking times, I can't tell you. I did try this one though, and it was the umpteen jillionth time for me and the Defenders.

The best thing about the title historically is that it's usually this really weird, off-flavor team-- kind of like blue cheese. I was actually traumatized by an issue of New Defenders as a kid, and what the hell was that thing Joe Casey did a few years back with Colossus? Anyway, the book's tended toward ookie and even spooky, which hasn't made it particularly profitable over the years, but it has been a neat footnote and the inspiration for some truly awesome WTF Handbook entries.

I don't get that impression here. Matt Fraction, despite his reputation for out there stuff like Casanova, has produced the most mainstream Defenders book of all time. You could have told me Bendis wrote this, and I'd have taken you at your word. The opening chaos was cliche to begin with, but it still reminded me of the relatively recent Xombi #1, without being a fraction (zing!) as inventive. Then we find out David Duchovny will be playing the part of Doctor Strange, which is WAY better casting than Doctor McDreamy, but still only serves to remind me that the Defenders lacks Californititties. It isn't enough for Namor to be an asshole with horrible taste in fashion anymore, so he chops people up with a scimitar, which only serves to remind everyone of how Aquaman swings a trident these days. Silver Surfer can become snow now, I guess, so okay. I've happily stayed away from Hulk stuff for many years, so I don't understand the nature of the threat that brings the new team together, like what the fuck it is and why Hulk isn't on the team to clean up his own mess. Who needs to keep new readers when there's lint to pick out of the Incredible Navel?

Speaking of Hulk shit, there's now two She-Hulks, the one here is red, and it's an out of character Betty Ross-Banner. I never liked Betty in the old days, but she was pretty cool when Peter David wrote her. Here's, she's kind of like old school Savage She-Hulk, but comes off as dumber and more unnecessarily aggressive. I guess this is female empowerment? What is it with Marvel watering all their properties down with doppelgangers, anyway? Don't they notice they're the shark-jumping point of franchises that often never recover, like Ghost Rider?

I didn't read Fraction's Iron Fist solo series, so I didn't know that he was one of those dilettante technologist comic book nerds that only appear in fan wankery. I never cared much about the guy, even when Claremont and Byrne were doing him, and this doesn't help in the slightest.

I bitch, but this wasn't a terrible book or anything. The dialogue was poppy, the art by the Dodsons was pretty, and even the coloring was attractive. It's just that the Defenders were always the "un-team," the leftovers thrown together in awkward but intriguing ways. In their matching costumes and tepid temperaments, the Defenders now seem like another Avengers line-up. It'll probably do well. Meh.

Valen the Outcast #1 (BOOM!, 2011, $1.00)
I have to be honest-- I read this comic on the toilet when I was really sleepy and one good bowel movement away from a wipe and a snooze. I don't remember much about it. Decades ago, I read a comic called Stalker #1 about a peasant who trades his soul to a devil to become the most badass swordfighter in the world. Stalker was struck by his existential emptiness, and decided to use his new abilities to get his soul back. Faustian deals are nothing new in fiction, but the premise was so simple and effective, I suspect it directly influenced later hits like Spawn. It was also written by Paul Levitz when that was a good thing, and featured the remarkably curious combination of epic art talents Steve Ditko and Wally Wood.

Valen is kind of like that, except he was a king who is now an undead zombie and he's got a mission of vengeance something something. A person wrote it and then another person drew it. It's leagues better than Wulf the Barbarian or Iron Jaw, but nobody is going to remember this in ten years like I remember Stalker, and Stalker fucking flopped.

Witch Doctor: The Resuscitation #1 (Image, 2011, $2.99)
Robert Kirkman is no one-hit wonder, but for every inspired work, there's a slew of mediocre shit that deserves its spot in the quarter bin. Kirkman came up from Image fandom, so I figured his Skybound publishing initiative was a way of paying it forward. That's a nice way of saying he would help a bunch of guys less talented than him fill a few more discount bins. For instance, when Witch Doctor was announced, the only thing I found noteworthy was that the cover artist did a nice old school Berni Wrightson pastiche. Still, the book received a reasonably positive reception online, with Hannibal Tabu dubbing it a House for the supernatural set. Given that I'm sufficiently sick of recycled big two garbage and a one shot was being offered, I gave it one shot.

The House parallel only works in the broadest sense, as Vincent Morrow is an egocentric doctor who condescends to his staff while offering brilliant analysis. Given that Morrow has one primary aide, Sherlock Holmes would be just as fitting. I suppose Morrow also has a sharp tongue, and the humor throughout is sardonic. I guess if you like House, you'll like this, but I don't think it's a requisite. The book reminded me as much of an updated Mr. Monster, just as that Wrightsonesque artist provided detailed interiors that owed just as much to modern talents like Phil Winslade. It's a very entertaining book that is well crafted, with fun characters capable of starting and ending a story in just twenty-two economical pages (meaning Marvel can go fuck their mothers some more.) Never underestimate the power of the quality entry point, as I intend to follow Brandon Seifert and Lukas Ketner's creation into trade paperback...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton's Little John? by Gavin Edwards (2006)

Gavin Edwards is a freelance magazine writer who was sort of like the Bob Rozakis of Rolling Stone Magazine. Readers would ask him a random, often amusing question about the popular music industry, and he'd do his best to answer it. As a column, this required considerable brevity, so Edwards decided to expound on previous responses, add some new ones, and publish it as a book with the similarly gratuitous title Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton's Little John?: Music's Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed. The result is a brisk read, perfect for the bathroom, lunch break, or a simple single sitting during a trip. It's broken up into fifteen themed chapters (rock star sex lives, misheard lyrics, deaths, etc.) then further compartmentalized by roughly one Q & A per page. These modules of trivia allow the reader to stay on for any length of time they wish before setting the book down and picking up fresh. It's fairly trashy, like gossiping at a lounge table before a set, but it's a fun way to meander through the least necessary and most difficult to conventionally access ephemera of rock history. Given the choice between this or some shit unreferenced, sub-literate wiki, there's no contest.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Frank Review of "The Devil's Hand" (1961)

The Short Version? The Devil's Advocate, without all the good stuff.
What Is It? "Thriller"
Who Is In It? Hawkeye Pierce's dad, Commissioner Gordon
Should I See It? Not really. Whatever.

From the swingin' surf rock that plays over the opening credits, you know that this film is going to be pretty swell... compared to all the other boring ass moldy public domain crap available for fishing out of a Wall*Mart bin. It's about a guy who is selected to be the new mate of a witch, so he dumps his ailing girlfriend and takes advantage of being a casual member of an evil devil cult that actually refers to itself as an evil devil cult. As cults go, it's impressively multicultural, which was a slight thrill for me, after having seen a lot of other Aryan junk from this era recently. It stars an Italian and two Mexicans, and the best looking girl is a black chick who gets to dance a few times. The movie is totally watchable, if you've got it on in the background while submitting online job applications or something. The women are all attractive, the acting is reasonable, the footage is well shot, and the brief running time is agreeable. The protagonist is kind of a slimeball, and it doesn't make sense that two barely legal hotties are after a middle aged man, but that's showbiz. I was hoping for a twist ending that took advantage of his anti-heroic qualities, but infringing upon Commissioner Gordon's religious right to perform human sacrifice is pretty good, too.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday Is Genre Press Cheapness For All I Care #132

Extinction Seed #0
Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist #1
House of Night #1

Extinction Seed #0 (GG Studio, 2011, $1.99)
To the best of my recollection, this was my first real taste of the wares of GG Studio, and it was much better than I was expecting. Mind, it still wasn't especially good, but I was expecting utter shit. Livia Pastore's art bears the passing resemblance to J. Scott Campbell that appears to be the house style, but packs in far more panels per page to maximize the story space over any flash. The art was shot (are rather scanned) from pencils, which does an excellent job of showing why the industry still needs inkers. I'm of the school that believes there would be no Jim Lee without guys like Scott Williams, Art Thibert and Joe Bennett to polish him up. Despite the efforts of colorist Alessia Nocera to add shadow and weight, the art is marred by an ephemeral quality that comes across more like a bleached out cartoon. There's twelve page of plot threads, but they don't coalesce into a story, very much bringing home the feel of this being a novelty-numbered teaser. If not, the hints of aureola through bathing bubbles and short shorts aplenty should bring it home. There are then five sketch pages of designs for characters never properly introduced, then eight house ads (including a full page advertising the opportunity of future advertisement space to advertisers.) As a whole, the package is serviceable, but insubstantial, which I'd imagine is less of an impression made than hoped for.

Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist #1 (Dynamic, 2011, $1.00)
As the introductory-priced first issue of a mini-series, this was a pretty solid book. As a reintroduction to Flash Gordon for a new generation of potential readers, it's kind of misguided. Alex Ross worships at the alter of the 1980 cult favorite motion picture triumph of production design over-- well, everything but maybe the original soundtrack by Queen. The flick flopped, but it's better remembered than the numerous other attempted revivals over the past thirty years, so why not let Ross do a full adaptation at the den of nostalgia that is Dynamite Entertainment.

Instead, at a time when DC Comics has had surprising success with running screaming from its roots in World War II, Zeitgeist plants Flash Gordon firmly in the realm of period piece. The premise is that the alien conqueror Ming the Merciless sets his sights toward Earth, and presumably contemplates the assistance of Adolph Hitler. That, or some renegades seek Hitler to work against Ming. I honestly read the book a few weeks ago, and forgot which way it went.

Anyway, the book does a nice job of setting the stage, introducing the thinly disguised Yellow Peril menace Ming as a Super-Hirohito usurping Hitler as the axis of the Axis. There are also a bunch of pages with that Gordon guy, who exhibits no real personality and comes across as kind of a pussy protagonist. The only thing worse than his getting forced into an experimental spaceship by Hans Zarkov is how long it takes Flash to wrest control from a tubby middle-aged scientist. Gordon is matched only by the completely useless Dale Arden as worst character in the book. Hitler doesn't get speaking lines, and he's the most overused villain in all known media. Yet, as presented, Flash and Dale are worse than Hitler. Worse. Than.

I've managed to go this long without reading a single Alex Raymond strip adventure, so the only way I can confirm any truth to source material is by saying this issue is exactly like the movie, aside from the period setting. Eric Trautmann's script covers the basics (aside from providing a protagonist of value,) and the art of Daniel Indro is very appealing. Like several of the more recent Dynamite samples, the quality has improved well past the point of my using Dynamite as a punchline, but not quite to the point of paying more than a dollar.

House of Night #1 (Dark Horse, 2011, $1.00)
My girlfriend loves Harry Potter, and I know the movies pretty well through osmosis and some unfortunate direct contact, thanks to those incessant ABC Family weekend marathons. As you may have noted from my tone, I don't care for the stuff, but I respect the basic quality of the work and the fans. I find it much more tolerable than a lot of the other cults out there. When they finally stopped making Potter stuff, my girl decided to give Twilight a try. Thankfully, that didn't take, because that shit was insultingly dumb. I'd already ruined her for it with True Blood anyway, although I would wholeheartedly support some guest appearances by Anna Kendrick, Christian Serratos and Ashley Greene as girlfriends of Jason Stackhouse.

House of Night is like eating a Harry Potter book and a Twilight book and then shitting them both onto pulp stock. Whatever nourishing value either franchise has got absorbed in the small intestine, and House of Night was the refuse reject for use by the body. The comic is based on a series of young adult novels that clearly, calculatingly picked through the bowel movements of J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer looking for edible peanuts. The comic adaptation is therefore like the last body in a Human Centipede of literature that begins with eating the shit of two successful writers. I can't even begin to parse out the cliché laid upon cliché laid upon cliché from such obvious, direct and universally recognized sources. It is the worst elements of both franchises so blatantly stolen that even illiterate Americans who wait for the movies should cry foul. Plus, fuck it, they threw in some of Eric Northman's viking kin, because maybe the kids won't have snuck a peek at True Blood their own selves. The lead is even some fairy sorceress or some shit like the lovechild of Ron Weasley and Sookie Stackhouse. As (poorly) drawn by Joëlle Jones, that somehow equals Dani Moonstar. Given the images conjured by that "If They Mated," probably for the best.

Friday, January 13, 2012

nurghophonic jukebox: "Your Love Just Ain't Right" by Angel

Written By: Andre & Keith Williams
Released: 1991
Album: Your Love Just Ain't Right
Single?: Yes.

I caught this song on “MTV International,” a syndicated block of videos that ran on Spanish language channels hosted by Daisy Fuentes. Angel speaks less español on this song than Gerardo did on "Rico Suave," so sights were clearly on crossover. It didn't take, I can't find any lyrics online, and the music video only came up available on YouTube in May of 2011. It's as repetitive as one would expect from a dance track, but I found it catchy, and thought I'd share. According to another YouTuber, "1991 dance-pop single from Angel Ferreira, a former background singer for artists like Madonna and Vanessa Williams. Today he leads an Afro-Cuban musical group known as Angel & The Mambokats." Dude can dance too, although people with a low voguing tolerance had best avert their eyes.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wednesday Is New 53 Minus 49 For All I Care #131

Aquaman #4 (2012)
Green Lantern Corps #4 (2012)
The Huntress #3 (2012)
Stormwatch #4 (2012)

Aquaman #4 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
I liked this better when it was called Aliens. Well, except without all the stuff with Bishop and Carter Burke and Newt and Vasquez and Hudson. Pretty much just the colonists and the colonial marines that died in the first encounter. Aquaman is Hicks and Mera is Ripley and the jerky cops are all Gorman and I guess the dog is Jonesy. Oh, and it's only about five minutes long, and ends when the ship picks Ripley up from the platform. Coming in 2012: The Power Loader!

Green Lantern Corps #4 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
Remember that old Stan Lee saying about how every comic is somebody's first? Pete Tomasi doesn't. See, this was my first issue of GLC since the Mongul arc from volume one. I don't think any of the corpsmen who were in that story turn up here. I don't know these guys. They raided some ninja dudes's planet, things go to crap, and one gets executed because John Stewart needed something else to feel guilty over. The ninja guys have something to do with GL power batteries, from what I gather. Whatever. Guy Gardner is Jack Bauer, torturing some dude that already looks dead up in his face. Martian Manhunter shows up from out of Tomasi's poop chute to get all mindrapey, including wiping Guy, who he's never met before. You know what kind of comics I don't need to read? Ones with nothing new or interesting to say except to tell me that all my funny JLI issues don't count anymore. Fuck you bitches, 'cuz I've got a few longboxes of that good shit, and they're the only reason I bought this turd.

The Huntress #3 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
Stop me if you've heard this one: Huntress in a foreign country, shooting trick crossbow bolts from hiding. She calls the reporter guy for exposition. She eavesdrops on conversations. She beats up random unimpressive goons. There's corruption in high places. The gangster bad guys leer at the innocent girls they traffic for sex. Huntress vows to stop them. Dude, you could have stopped me sentences ago. This isn't just every issue of this mini-series, but whole chunks of the video market for action movies in the heyday of VHS. It could be retro cool if it were sexy or funny or amusing bad-- anything but strictly perfunctory. A waste of a good character and really attractive art on endlessly spinning wheels.

Stormwatch #4 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
Paul Cornell kept telling everybody that all the wack-a-doo b.s. going on in this book would amount to something. Apparently, that something is the readership's collective sigh that the dude bails after #6. Not one-- not two-- but three gods pop out of boxes to tell plotlines from the first three issues to talk to the hand. "Those sixty pages you read earlier? That 'plot?' Nope. Stops right here." They're really tired contrivances too, like "Let's fill the energy guy up with enough energy to shoot super-energy that'll wipe out the bad guys in one fell swoop" and "Our secret bosses show up to fix everything." GTFO. Midnighter coming on to Apollo was less like all those cynical, sarcastic British techno-thrillers they're known for and more like the sorts of panels from '60s Young Romance comics Roy Lichtenstein would have swiped from. The rest of the paper doll version of the Authority just goes through the motions of a post-Morrison team book as written by an incompetent acolyte. Also, artist Miguel Sepulveda shows a Rob Liefeldian hatred of feet. Lacking the common courtesy to offer spontaneous manifestations of fog or smoke or dust clouds, Sepulveda just draws toes like Charles Schultz drew Charlie Brown's hair.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Frank Review of "Terrified!" (1963)

The Short Version? Pre-Slasher movie
What Is It? Thriller
Who Is In It? Nobody
Should I See It? Probably not.

I wish Terrified! was a better movie. It has an interesting premise, with acting decent for its time and budget. There is an aficionado of fear conducting unscientific experiments in a small town. From simple games of chicken on the highway to burying a man alive in cement, our killer relishes the terror he inflicts. The guy is sharp looking in a neat black suit and tie with black gloves and mask concealing everything but his eyes. Between his distinctive looks and obsessions, the killer serves as a prototype for the slashers of a decade on, but this guy also enjoys verbally taunting and manipulating his prey.

There are three primary characters pursued by the killer. Rod Lauren plays Ken, a brooding James Dean type fascinated by the effects of terror on society. Ken offers a few heavy-handed monologues on the matter, which nonetheless elevates the material above the usual mindless b-movie nonsense. Lauren was a one hit wonder whose life took several tragic turns, including a murder accusation and his later suicide. Steve Drexel plays David, a workaday guy vying for the affections of a shared love interest. Tracy Olsen plays Marge, the lovely young woman torn between the two men. Ken is given a few flashback moments to round out his character, but for the most part, none develop beyond that outline.

Most of the running time is spent in a ghost town converted into one large haunted house, through which the killer teases and chases Ken. This is fun at times, but goes on too long, and could use a few more bodies to divide the killer's time. From there, a few minor complications arise, the killer's true identity is revealed, and after wasting a quarter of an hour, everything wraps in a matter of minute. Not a typo.

Someone could do a really nifty remake of this picture. It needs more characters and a lot more red herrings to jerk the audience around about the killer's identity, but without it feeling like a wimpy cheat. A few more bloodless murders could be played out instead of just teased, and a few more armchair psychological/philosophical rants could be fun. Until then, this is just a dated, thrill-less thriller with a nifty antagonist but not a lot to do.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Comic Reader Résumé: Spring-Summer, 1982

ré·su·mé [rez-oo-mey, rez-oo-mey]
1. a summing up; summary.
2. a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, as that prepared by an applicant for a job.

March, 1982 was a decidedly off month for me. My copy of Conan the Barbarian #135 by Steven Grant, Mark Silvestri & Josef Rubinstein came out of a grocery store three pack purchased by my father four or five years after publication. I probably bought The Saga of Swamp Thing #2, but only because I was a sucker for photo covers, and that might have just come out of a cheapie bin as late as 1989. I have no recollection of either story.

I definitely picked The Warlord #58-61, because I was really into Mike Grell's riff on The Man in the Iron Mask. I'm just as confident I bought them a year or two after the fact at the flea market, and that I could never force myself to read the Arion back-ups.

By comparison, April of 1982 was boffo. DC Comics Presents #47 came home with me because it was the first Masters of the Universe comic book tie-in, and I was totally into He-Man at the time. Paul Kupperberg's story was okay, I guess, but I totally hated the art by Curt Swan and Mike DeCarlo. I could have sworn Skeletor was killed when He-Man threw his sword into the villain's chest, so I was confused when he turned back up again in another comic. When Conan stabbed somebody, they tended to stay dead. I always found super-heroes mingling with licensed properties weird, and I was somehow savvy enough even then to recognize instances like this where it occurred. I have absolutely no memory of the back-up, "Whatever Happened to Sandy the Golden Boy?"

The Rose and the Thorn had an origin recap in The Brave and the Bold #188, and the multiple personality disorder feminist angle tripped out my unsophisticated brain. The cover and interiors by Jim Aparo were striking, and writer Robert Kanigher had me hooked with the title, "A Grave as Wide as the World." The Nemesis back-up by Cary Burkett and Dan Spiegle was less impressive, as I found the art ugly and a disservice to the reservedly cool look of Nemesis, sort of a Steve McQueen type.

I recall looking through a buddy's copy of Marvel Fanfare #3 with the sweet Michael Golden art, which was likely my introduction to Ka-Zar and the Savage Land. I also really dug my pal's Avengers #221 because of the novel voting ballot cover to select two new team members. I distinctly recall reading Avengers #222 at the beauty salon where my grandmother got her hair done. The team of Jim Shooter, Steven Grant, Greg LaRocque & Brett Breeding did a fine job by my standards, as I retained a soft spot for Masters of Evil Moonstone and Tiger Shark for years. I especially thought Whirlwind was cool, aside from the dippy helmet, because he could deal so much damage while protected by his tornado. Egghead was the odd man out, a wimpy scientist amongst scary villains.

I guess I was a bimonthly reader. I don't believe I bought anything in May, except perhaps the second part of the Rose & Thorn team-up in The Brave and the Bold #189. Just as likely, I fished it out of a back issue box years later. It had nazis, who were pretty ubiquitous thanks to Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it didn't not stick to my brain like the first part.

You would think a kid set loose for the summer would be all over comic books, but these were pretty much dead months to me. In June, I only picked up Weird War Tales #115, around the time the Creature Commandos feature merged with G.I. Robot. Robert Kanigher and Fred Carrillo crafted the affecting tale "You Can't Pin a Medal on a Robot," which impressed me with its stoicism and depressed me with its pathos. Those poor disabled soldiers, fighting for countries that dubbed them freaks and sent them off on suicide missions.

My one new comic for July was Batman Annual #8, which I pulled off a spinner rack at Gemco. I was fascinated by "The Messiah of the Crimson Sun" by Mike W. Barr and Trevor Von Eeden. I had never seen art or coloring like that before, the latter provided by Lynn Varley of eventual The Dark Knight Returns fame. It was beautiful, striking, and had scope of apocalyptic magnitude, up to and including the appearance of a Christlike figure. It was my first Rā's al Ghūl story, who remains one of my favorite villains, Batman or otherwise. Of course, any time I read a Rā's story of less grandeur or with art inferior to the high standards set here, I feel the creators are just plain doing it wrong. I still have my original copy, sans cover and some early pages, plus a complete reading copy. This was the first "graphic novel" I ever read in terms of feel and quality, despite it simply being an annual. Has DC ever collected all the '80s Barr Ra's stories in a trade paperback? I'd much prefer to see something like this in a hardcover than the umpteenth repackaging of Alan Moore stories. I guess that I was so bowled over, I skipped August entirely.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Frank Review of "Nightmare in Wax" (1969)

The Short Version? The Garage of Wax
What Is It? "Horror."
Who Is In It? Nobody.
Should I See It? No.

The House of Wax is a classic film shamelessly and artlessly ripped-off by this floundering feature. The main differences are that this was contemporary instead of a period piece, none of the acting or effects are any good, the cinematography is a muted mess, plus there's no goofy anaglyph 3D to lend any cheese factor. The killer's technique doesn't make a lick of sense, the cops in this program are morons, and the only thing worse than the non-story is the cop out ending. Terrible from front to back. Completely worthless.


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