Friday, June 29, 2012

Wednesday Is Sci-Fry For All I Care #153

Higher Earth #1
Star Trek TNG/Dr. Who #1
Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison #1

Higher Earth #1 (BOOM! Studios, 2012, $1.00)
Some people and a robot bear fight in a junkyard before two of them jump to a parallel Earth for the last three pages. Sigh. I waited too long to review this book. I was really fucking pissed right after I read it, so that review would have been more entertaining. This is the kind of comic where no characters are properly introduced, there's oodles of cryptic references to stuff that isn't revealed, but the "high concept" premise is laid out, by which I mean it's Sliders with swordplay. Francesco Biagini has an appealing art style, but his storytelling leaves a lot to be desired. For instance, there's an antagonist (random cannon fodder) who probably falls from some sort of height, or maybe into a pit of some kind, which is full of hotness or light or negative space or something. Colorist Andrew Crossley tries to compensate, and he has a nice enough palate, but meh. Sam Humphries has written several books in a row that I wanted to crumple up and throw away because they were so poorly crafted, so I'm thinking that I'm not going to buy anything from him again, even at this low price point. It only encourages him, like the lymphatic system encourages the spread of cancer throughout a host.

Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who: Assimilation2 #1 (IDW, 2012, $3.99)
The first seven pages of this issue were like an exceptionally violent prologue to an episode of TNG, and then the crew doesn't show up until a final page splash reveal. The rest of it was Doctor Who, and I had no problem with that. I watched a good chunk of the TNG series when it went into daily syndication, followed several further Trek series, and saw almost all of their mostly awful feature films. Those guys are pretty rigid in their formula and characterization.

Meanwhile, I've only gotten into Who fairly recently, and if only by virtue of the regular rotation of Doctors and companions, the concept seems a lot more fresh and exciting to me. To this casual fab, Scott & David Tipton seem to have a good ear for their dialogue, and the Who crew had a fun self-contained mini adventure to start things off right. The closing was also very appropriate for both series. Despite not having yet encountered them personally, I recognize the Cybermen (though I had to Google their name,) and it was cute seeing them alongside the Borg.

My one complaint is with the art of J.K. Woodward, who photo-references the TV characters to within an inch of their lives. Everything else looks like one of those Innovation comics from the '90s that tried to coast on the painted art boom by slapping it over underwhelming amateur pencils. The result was like watching a deadeyed Bob Zemeckis mo-cap feature on a washed out lo-def screen. Regardless, the quality of the book and its presentation overall lived up to the issue's price tag.

Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison #1 (Dark Horse, 2012, $3.50)
I wouldn't go so far as to say it pains me, but it is disconcerting to find myself enjoying a Star Wars comic. Between the prequels and all the expanded universe junk, I wasn't sure going in if I even had the capacity to have a positive experience. It helped that this is set firmly in a time period none too far removed from A New Hope, and took advantage of familiarity with in-jokes that actually hit home and served the greater narrative. The characters and circumstances are interesting in and of themselves, without relying on encyclopedic Warsie knowledge. The art by Agustin Alessio gets everything right, offering big budget cinematic visuals with realistic detail, but not sacrificing a sense of life in motion. His style is reminiscent of Gene Ha, but more fluid and fleshed out. Haden Blackman hits all the right notes for the opening chapter in a mini-series, offering a satisfying installment that establishes his characters and ends on a sound hook.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Frank Review of "Chronicle" (2012)

The Short Version? Parahuman Activity.
What Is It? Found Footage Superhero Drama.
Who Is In It? Nobody you know.
Should I See It? Probably.

The Smallville Witch Project? Akirafield? I've got a million of 'em. Thankfully, Chronicle is closer in quality to 2007's [REC] than the E.coli stream of projectile poop in a landfill that are most "found footage" pseudo-documentary genre flicks. It's still by-the-numbers, but does a good job with the consistency and placement of the paint. Give three teenage boys telekinesis. One's socially maladjusted. One's a good-natured goof. One's a popular kid. The first two are white, and the last is black. Quick: who's not going to make it to the end of this movie, who'll be fucking up downtown Tokyo, and who'll be shouting "TETSUO?" That said, the film plays in some darker areas than most super-hero fare, and is vastly more competent with its filming conceit than most of its kind. The acting is decent, the character types are set up well, and it's fun seeing them work through their predictable arcs. There's a few laughs, and some sweet destruction in the last act, even if the ending is rather cheesy. For the budget, it's a good looking adventure story, well paced, and a solid diversion.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Frank Review of "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" (2010)

The Short Version? Mario & Luigi's Infinite Playlist.
What Is It? ADD Romantic Comedy.
Who Is In It? Paulie Bleeker, Royal Pain, Igby, Six Chick, Captain America, Superman, The Punisher, Max Fischer, Major Suzy Chao, Jessica from Twilight
Should I See It? Yes.

Once I started watching Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, I couldn't stop. It isn't so much passively viewed as streamed directly into your brain at such a rapid pace that it isn't a collection of scenes, but a single unit of compressed subjective time flooding your synapses. It's an entertainment explosion contained by your cranium; a benign blipvert.

For once with a comic book based movie, I've never read the original graphic novels, and suspect that I wouldn't even like them. After all, the hero of those volumes is Scott Pilgrim, a douchebag simpleton who unwittingly embarks on a hero's journey of expanded consciousness by way of having a total hard-on for the seemingly unattainable cool new girl. After a bit of resistance, Ramona Flowers turns out to be surprisingly reliable and gettable, with the unspoken caveat that any suitor will have to face and defeat her seven evil exes in mortal combat. This necessitates constant segues into surreal video game flavored battles, as well as cartoon graphics throughout even the "normal" portions. The extravagance of the battles and the rapid fire dialogue strongly suggest manga, which I've never developed a taste for, but compressing so much story into one feature seems to have alleviated potential hang-ups from the source material.

Director Edgar Wright (with co-screenwriter Michael Bacall) seems to have trimmed Bryan Lee O'Malley's novels into an all-killer, no-filler slacker epic. Puns and cameos come fast an furious (sometimes distractingly so,) and the film seems to play with every cinematic trick from the dawn of the silent era to the latest, greatest CGI. There's a bit of lag in the final act thanks to a repetition device, and some of the more famous faces turn in performances that might have been better served by unknowns, but the film is so addictive and inventive that it demands thoroughly enjoyable repeat viewings.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

nurghophonic jukebox: "Fill Me Up" by Linda Perry

Written By: Linda Perry
Released: September 16, 1996
Album: In Flight
Single?: No.

I'm a fan of Bigger, Better, Faster, More!, Perry's breakthrough album with one hit wonder band 4 Non Blonds. I've also enjoyed a lot of her songwriting and production work with other pop artists like Pink, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, and Courtney Love. However, I've never warmed to her 100% solo work, this song exempted. According to Billboard, it never charted, but the local alternative station in Houston had it in their rotation for a little while.

Wake me up when
The party's over
It seems I've had too much wine

Please remember
To remind me
If I had a good time

Was I friendly?
Or was I bragging?
And did I start to bore you?

Was I charming?
Or was I absent?
Did I even say goodnight?

Fill me up lets take a ride
From your mouth into my mind
Cause I grow weary from this trip I'm on, yeah
And the ride keeps getting longer

And in morning
I'll be hungover with my face into the phone
Please forgive here on after
By the way how'd I get home?

Was I laughing?
Was I choking?
And did I start to annoy you?

Was I sleazy?
Or was I dazzling?
Did I even say goodbye?

(fill me up lets take a ride
From your mouth into my mind
Cause I grow weary from this trip I'm on, yeah
And the ride keeps getting longer) x 3 So wake me up when the party's over
It seems I've had too much wine

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wednesday Is A Watchman Aquastorm For All I Care #152

Aquaman #8 (2012)
Aquaman #9 (2012)
Stormwatch #8 (2012)
Stormwatch #9 (2012)

Aquaman #8
(DC, 2012, $2.99)
Thirteen pages of flashbacks and several more of exposition dump makes me happy, since they involve way more storytelling than Johns musters most months. It almost makes up for the page spent watching the same house from the same perspective go through seasons (the colorist carrying three of the five static panels,) a splash page of young Aquaman splashing, a spread of the Others dashing through the snow, WAY too many silent/minimal panels, and a closing 3/4 splash Black Manta pin-up. She looks so fucking fine, but the bitch can't divide by one.

Aquaman #9
(DC, 2012, $2.99)
Speaking of which, this issue is like Forrest Gump to last issue's Rain Man. Why in the holy fuck would Manta stab a whole bunch of expendable nobodies in order to choke the one motherfucker in the building with super-powers? The harder they try to make Manta cool, the more ridiculous he becomes. The whole stealth assassin thing is undercut by wearing an enormous chrome helmet with glowing red headlights for eyes and an oxygen tank besides. Is Rick Moranis under all that shit, and can he breathe in that thing? How about those pussy wrist mounted mini-harpoons he fires with the thread attached? Is he serious with those things? I grin every time they appear. They make a little queef sound in my head.

There are so many near/silent fight pages in this goddamned thing that I don't feel like counting them all. Alright, fuck it, fourteen out of twenty. Mostly all of it that doesn't involve an elderly Asian fellow laying exposition like pipe out of a latrine. Oh, there was that one page where the jungle girl throws herself at Aquaman, and he's all "I'm involved." Sounds like a Feiffer/Wetham mash-up to me.

This issue was inked by Joe Prado, Oclair Albert and Andy Lanning. What is the deal with all the inker pile-ups these days? If there's only one pencil artist, is Ivan Reis' work so detailed that it takes more manpower to embellish? Do the pages sit in the editor's office so long that they have to be rushed out to a team for finishes? Eh, the finished product in this case is gorgeous, so who cares? Three bucks in cheap for a color portfolio, right?

Stormwatch #8 (DC, 2012, $2.99)
This book was nice both as the second half of a two-parter and as a singular unit. There's enough exposition to feel fully caught up on the story, and it carries along well from there. This is helped mightily by character moments, like Midnighter and Jenny Quantum talking about boys, as well as the Engineer "interrogating" her ship's artificial intelligence. That's clearly where the writer's heart is. Paul Jenkins works a little too hard to build up a swiftly quashed threat, but at least it rose to the power level of the team, and they looked good while dealing with it. This pair of issues were easily the best of the run to date. Ignacio Calero and Daniel Hor have complimentary enough styles that I didn't really notice the book had two pencillers. Admittedly, I just figured Calero was slacking off on the detail on some pages, but they all looked alright and flowed.

Stormwatch #9 (DC, 2012, $2.99)
Miguel Sepulveda's brief return to the book made me realize that I didn't actually miss him. It's not that the art is bad, but with all the digital effects, past swiping, and history of shortcuts, it feels a little like trying to get back with an unfaithful lover. It doesn't help that the writer of his new book just took over scripting this title, shortchanging the run from the first issue by barely pulling a shitty crossover between the two.

Peter Milligan is like the anti-Jenkins. There are quasi-character moments here, but they're all snarky and shallow and tone deaf. There's two separate threats to deal with, but neither remotely impress. Why introduce Vitruvian Man if his only impact is going to be modest property damage? What did he do to deserve having his neck twisted all the fucking way around? Why is everybody perfectly okay with Midnighter straight up executing a guy who appeared to have legitimate concerns about Stormwatch's morally questionable masters? Why spend seven pages taking down a Red Lantern who gets virtually no dialogue just to set up the arbitrary crossover into that book?

The short version is, this issue was worse than any by Cornell, and those were pretty lousy. I look forward to dropping this title post-haste.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Frank Review of "Prometheus" (2012)

The Short Version? Prequel to [Spoiler]
What Is It? Science-Fantasy/Action
Who Is In It? The Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Æon Flux, young Magneto, Stringer Bell, Leonard Shelby
Should I See It? Maybe.

We are living in an extraordinary time, where computers and practical effects can create and populate whole worlds. Director Ridley Scott is an acknowledged master, coupled with the gorgeous cinematography of Dariusz Wolski, filming a rapturous feast for the eyes by combining technical expertise with sumptuous, unique location shooting. The casting is stellar, and the film must be seen in a theater to fully appreciate its grandeur. With all this epic wizardry on display, you'd think that the creators had made a trip through Oz as part of the pre-production. You'd be wrong, of course, because Prometheus clearly has no heart, no brain, no courage, and never finds its way home.

A pair of scientists convince a mysterious businessman to pay out trillions of dollars in order to visit a distant location in space based on a ridiculous premise that wouldn't hold water in educated or theological circles. Thanks to ADD pacing, the expedition immediately finds evidence of an alien structure, explore it without any significant resistance, and then replay scenes from Alien movies (and for good measure, John Carpenter's The Thing) like a Rocky Horror troupe. Plot and characters are all familiar shorthand recreations. Paul W.S. Anderson directed AVP: Alien vs. Predator, but you could swear he wrote the threadbare, dunderhead pastiche that is the Prometheus script.

Noomi Rapace is a solid enough pick as the lead scientist, but her motivations are slight, and there's no indication that the character as presented would legitimately be strong enough to survive the trials she faces. Logan Marshall-Green is a rude mannequin as her lesser half. Michael Fassbender is fun as the android David, whose scenes consciously cross over into Kubrickian territory that makes scenes not involving him seem paler. Charlize Theron's Meredith Vickers comes the closest to providing either a Ripley or a Burke to the film, but she isn't developed enough to carry the ball in either direction. Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, and Patrick Wilson are wasted as bit players with anorexic personalities.

Characters fail to remain in character, and perform massively, unforgivably uncharacteristic actions. It is never remotely scary, and tension is hard to come by when paper dolls are threatened with a lighter. To call the film science fiction is fallacious, because science requires logic and fact-based theories, and this entire enterprise rests on high definition 3D dream logic. Everything goes completely off the rails in the last act, with about three different endings, each of which shit themselves and rub snot on their own faces. It's pretty gross to see it happen the first time, but by the third it's almost funny, like playing out a lame joke long enough that you laugh through sheer exasperation. The screenplay by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof is so indefensibly pothead moronic, embracing the movie as pure fantasy is its only salvation, and it deserves to be saved. This is a fucktastic looking film that never bores with a lot of cool elements. I love that Prometheus swings back toward the colorful, arch, Frigidaire sleek B-movie sci-fi that Alien rendered obsolete with a genre-wide to shift toward a gritty, greasy, working class believable future that has itself become such a bore. It's oh so pretty, oh so vacant, but you can't not hit it at least three times. Depending on how much forgiveness you have in your heart for David Fincher's effort, this overreaching popcorn flick is better than any Alien sequel produced in a quarter century, and it's worth seeing just to gaze upon it in awe of its visual splendor and its dreadful failings.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wednesday Is Running Late For All I Care #151

Batman, Incorporated #1 (2012)
Exiled #1
Wonder Woman #8 (2012)

Batman, Incorporated #1 (DC, 2012, $2.99)
When I buy a book with a #1 on it, I expect something a little more coherent than this, much less accessible. The first page is a flash forward to Bruce Wayne being arrested in a graveyard. Returning to the present, a double page spread is wasted on Batman and Robin jumping over some crates. The pair chase a masked thug into a slaughterhouse. The workers inside, wearing armor under their overalls, don horned goat masks and attack the heroes. There's a bunch of fighting in cow blood. Robin almost gets killed by a sniper. Robin states that he's converting to vegetarianism, and decides to adopt a cow, dubbed Bat-Cow. A demonic gangster named Leviathan makes a lieutenant eat his own brother. I guess he employes Man-Bats, who kill the lieutenant. Mention is made of Robin being Talia al Ghul's son, and she's placed a half-billion dollar bounty on his head. Robin is also Batman's son, but isn't pleased about his father's resurrection, and preferred working with Dick Grayson.

What. The. Fuck? I've described what I read in the first twelve pages of this book, and I've kept up enough with current comics to understand most of it. That said, what's the deal with the beef? Did Robin sever the tendons behind that one guy's knees with batarangs? Why does Talia want to kill her kid? Why Bat-Cow? I vaguely remember militarized Man-Bats from early issues of Morrison's Batman run, but I don't know anything about them. Referencing the first volume of Batman and Robin and that mini-series where Bruce Wayne traveled in time only confused me. I seriously forgot that this wasn't the first issue of Batman and Robin volume 2, since the art resembled Frank Quitely and Robin's story is central to 20 of the 22 pages, plus the cover. I catch the factoids, but I have trouble contextualizing them, or more importantly, having any of it mean anything to me.

The extended Bat-Family appear on only two pages, and I don't know these guys or get much from their dialogue. The Dynamic Duo story then picks up with obvious bait for an inevitable switch. I do not give a shit. The art by Chris Burnham is really nice, but Morrison's script rubs my nose in how much work he's put into three Batman series over something like five years. I haven't read much of them, and have no desire to based on how excluding this tale was. Take out all the up-its-own-ass continuity, and there isn't much actual story here, so fuck this shit.

Exiled #1 (Marvel, 2012, $2.99)
This book, a stand-alone that sets up a crossover between two issues each of Journey into Mystery and New Mutants, is the opposite of Batman, Incorporated #1. As with the previous review, I only know as much about the titles as I can glean from solicitation copy and odd articles on comic news sites. In fact, I'm much more ignorant about the Marvel titles, since their continuity doesn't get near the coverage, and I read virtually no related titles. However, all the backstory needed was presented in a two page spread containing ten narrow panels and bricks of text. At first, I was like "oh, damn," but the text was informative and intriguing.

The second two pages introduced what I assume to be an entirely new character, who I find immediately interesting. The next page uses effective expository dialogue to establish that status quo of the New Mutants. They don't introduce each character, but you get a feel for their dynamic and how their story relates to the current plot. I haven't read a story about Dani Moonstar in years, but as this one progresses, I finds out everything about her relevant to this tale. Later, Loki as a kid turns up, which I was already aware was a thing, but even if I didn't, the necessary characters and characterization are presented here. Crazy stuff happens, but I'm oriented enough to get the parts I'm supposed to and want to read more about the parts that have yet to be revealed.

Kieron Gillen, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning provide very good writing that involved me in characters I would not normally give a shit about. Maybe for once having three guys team up to write a book allowed each to bring their strengths to the table, but however you slice it, they're a fuck ton better in this outing than Morrison in his. The Marvel guys clearly have their own dense worlds of continuity to deal with, but they escort me through all that, where Morrison just dumped crap on and over my head. I'm not wild about Carmine Di Giandomenico's art, but that's down to my personal aesthetics, rather than any shortcomings on his part. This was a good book, and I'll have to make more of an effort to seek these writers out in the future.

Wonder Woman #8 (DC, 2012, $2.99)
Nobody put a #1 on this cover, so I won't give it as much grief as Batman, Incorporated #1, but I didn't like it much. Wonder Woman and Hermes travel to Hades to save a kidnapped friend. Finding her also means uncovering a few twists. A new version of the god Hades puts Wonder Woman into a position where she has to negotiate, and things don't work out as planned.

Happily, this book held no real mystery for me in the process of reading it. It's not the kind of Wonder Woman book I want to read, but I know the basics of the material well, and I've kept reasonably abreast of things through the internet. I don't want to see Bodyworlds refugees chopped up by Diana with a sword, and in general the book is more dark and fucked-up than I can appreciate. The art by Cliff Chiang is very appealing, and despite my distaste for the material, Brian Azzarello's script presents it clearly. It was a brisk, functional read, but not my bag.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Frank Review of "Punisher: War Zone" (2008)

The Short Version? The latest variation on cinematic Punishment.
What Is It? Action-Dramedy.
Who Is In It? Titus Pullo, McNulty, Horace Goodspeed, the squad leader from Resident Evil, Newman!, Darla
Should I See It? No.

I bought 1977's The Amazing Spider-Man #175 at a flea market in the early '80s, and it introduced me to the Punisher. He was possibly my first favorite anti-hero, because I don't recall if I knew about Wolverine yet by that point. While I was already familiar with violent action cinema, this was the first time a character from that sphere had invaded my super-hero comics. Tough guys with guns were nothing new in four colors, but what set the Punisher apart was that he was an iconic costumed vigilante who showed up established super-heroic greats with his no nonsense and highly lethal brand of justice. Initially, he served to contrast the absolutes of black and white with a shade of gray. He was also a bit of a political straw man, allowing liberal writers to use his extreme example to explain why super-heroes didn't run around killing "the bad guys." However, broader pop culture rarely reflected those values, and the Punisher came to represent something closer to an idealized "good" in the minds of more right wing fans. Since super-hero comics tended to demonize the Punisher, he found liberation in his own solo comics without their moralizing, and a whole cottage industry sprang up around Punisher-style protagonists.

Most Punisher imitators fail for the same reason the Punisher himself has yet to successfully translate to the type of cinema that helped to spawn him: irrelevance. The Punisher mattered because he was the first and most iconic of his kind. His success meant he tended to have the best creators available working in his subgenre, and he held a revered status in the most popular super-heroic universe. Many of the flashiest artists of the Punisher's heyday got their start working on the character, so who cared if they went on to create imitations divorced from the Marvel Universe, the trademark costume, decent writing, and so forth. However, the Punisher franchise also overextended itself, subsisting on inferior talent and choking on rigid formula until it all fell apart. The Punisher was redeemed in the aughts by cult favorite writer Garth Ennis, first as a means to ridicule the mainstream super-hero comics that the creator hated, and then as an avenue for grindhouse action yarns too brutal and idiosyncratic for other media. These books sold to Ennis fans and Punisher fans, but they weren't really meant for public consumption. In fact, there's little that is marketably unique about the Punisher outside of comics, since his whole purpose was to represent action movie/video game tropes within comics. He is not transcendent of his milieu.

The 1989 Punisher adaptation failed by being a generic action movie that borrowed nothing but the trademark from the comics. The 2004 attempt failed because it attempted to translate a severely watered down version of Ennis' super-comic satire into a tin-eared PG-13 film. This edition fails because it follows the same blueprint, but straight without chaser, indulging in the most ridiculous and sophomoric excesses of Ennis. It is surprisingly faithful to a very specific type of comic and fan, and had the same odds of success as trying to push heroin on suburban potheads. The masses take one look at that needle, and run in the opposite direction. Also, and this is important to remember, the movie remains terrible under its own terms.

Ray Stevenson is a charmless cypher as Frank Castle. He's not supposed to be expressive, but guys like Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood didn't need to say shit to be intense motherfuckers. Stevenson looks like Steven Seagal if he got on that diet John Goodman was on that time where he lost a shit ton of weight, but looked exhausted and saggy and sad like Droopy Dog. Dominic West is a painfully dreadful ham as Jigsaw, doing the worst possible Jack Nicholson in Batman '89 Joker impersonation. Doug Hutchison as Loony Bin Jim is a dreadful Southie Hannibal Lecter with no presence, awful instincts, gut-wrenching enunciation, and the physique of a middle-schooler. You can't forget that this is the guy from Lost that married the trashy jailbait, not a psycho assassin. Wayne Knight can't be Micro, because he can never not be Wayne Knight in anything. Dash Mihok is anti-comic relief as the pathetic detective Soap. The only decent actors are Julie Benz in a thankless reprisal of her role in Rambo, and a thoroughly wasted Colin Salmon, who manages to overcome an anemic character to remind audiences that he deserves to at least be the lead in this trash.

Director Lexi Alexander and some fans defended the film as intentionally dreadful in a podcast, but barring an inflated sense of taste superiority via ironic detachment and/or copious indulging in alcohol/drugs, that doesn't wash. This is a cheap looking, derivative, cornball flick with some seriously underwhelming direction, shoddy stunts, lousy CGI marred gore effects, atrocious lighting, flaccid stunts, foul dialogue, irritating music and a humor threshold somewhere beneath the final season of whichever sketch comedy show you deem the worst. Producing something this sorry on purpose denies the audience even the slightly pleasing aroma of slow roasted hubris. A key plot point involves Castle's mission becoming morally compromised, and the filmmakers deserve credit for having the balls to not use a loophole to get the Punisher off the hook lightly. They also lacked the brains to resolve the matter in a believable, satisfying manner. That's the flick in a nutshell right there.

  • Nothing. Fuck you. No-thing. Okay, the theatrical trailer and some others from Lionsgate.

  • Friday, June 8, 2012

    Wednesday Is Licensing Friendly For All I Care #150

    FCBD Buffy / The Guild
    FCBD Serenity / Star Wars
    My Favorite Martian: Free Comic Book Day
    Transformers: Regeneration One #80.5

    Free Comic Book Day and Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 9 "In Space No One Can Hear You Slay" / The Guild: Beach'd
    (Dark Horse, 2012, Free)
    Judas Priest! That's got to be the longest run-on of a title in the history of the comic book medium! Pity Overstreet when they log in that entry. Anyway, as the title indicates, this flip book starts with a (surely non-canon) tale of Buffy battling a Giger alien. Well, that's not quite true, as the indicia does not include Fox copyright, and while on-model, the xenomorph is saddled with a pussy vulnerability. Otherwise, I'd have to give Buffy the Kyle Reece speech about how unlikely it would be for her to kill an alien in this time with these weapons. It's meant to be a parody, and all of the humor comes from an entirely different set of aliens. This is undercut by violence in the second half, and by too many in-jokes requiring prior knowledge of the Buffyverse. Really nice art by Jeanty and Vines, though

    "Alabaster: Shelter Part Two" requires you to have read an entirely separate FCBD book, which I declare to be bullshit. On its own it makes little sense, and when read with a break between parts it feels rather shoddy and obvious. You know how often movies rely on you to passively view the proceedings, because if you had time to stop and think about things, you'd figure out the ending and pull at the loose threads? That's exactly the mistake made here.

    I've read and seen some Guild material, and thought it was mildly amusing, but nothing to sustain my interest. "Beach'd" is a character driven romp, but the characters are really irritating, and their paltry characterization is reenforced in panel after panel. This is terrible geek baiting sitcom material, I don't like these people, and after this, I don't want to read about them ever again.

    Free Comic Book Day and Serenity: Firefly Class 03-K64--It's Never Easy / Free Comic Book Day: Star Wars--"The Art of the Bad Deal"
    (Dark Horse, 2012, Free)
    No wait, somehow this title is even longer and more awful. There's a fucking serial number in there. It makes me want to punch someone in the collar bone with all of my inconsiderable might.

    Zack Whedon writes the Firefly story, and the characterization is down, but the plot is mindbogglingly pointless. I seriously paused to question the cosmos as to why anyone would bother. This was also the first story I've read set post-Serenity, which served to remind me that the movie ended the series far too well for me to have any desire for "expanded 'verse" material. I understand that artist Fábio Moon has hipster cred, but his exaggerated, lumpy take of the crew only heightened by intolerance.

    Zack Whedon also writes the Han Solo & Chewbacca tale, which means Dark Horse just gave every major aspect of their two FCBD books to Whedon people. This strikes me as a mistake, especially in this case, because I'm not sure Joss' brother can write. Oh sure, he's okay with dialogue, but this story's plot was also completely irrelevant, and a look at his IMDb pages fails to impress. He did one of the weakest Deadwood episodes, some odds n' sods genre stuff, and the massively overrated Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. The whole premise here is that Solo is stupid enough to deal with a guy guaranteed to fuck him, gets fucked, then almost gets extra fucked save for a completely predictable Chewie rampage. It's plumb stupid. At least the art of Davidé Fabbri and Christian Dalla Vecchia is a marked improvement.

    "Alabaster: Shelter Part One" is the first half of an ill-conceived two part story. Caitlín R. Kiernan sets up an interesting situation, but given that the protagonist as presented is essentially Buffy by another name, the only conclusion is readily apparent. Instead of using Greg Ruth's cover to the first issue of the mini-series four times in two comics surrounding a pair of two page stories, how about running the full four pages in one comic? Surely Star Wars alone could have sprawled out its backlist advertisement across several pages, turning a redundancy into something on the furthest periphery of opportunity?

    My Favorite Martian (Hermes Press, 1964/2012, Free)
    They say that this is the greatest time ever for comic book artistry. If that's so, how come the best of the four books reviewed here is a forty-eight year old reprint of a cheap TV sitcom adaptation written by a wildly prolific hack, drawn by something of an industry pariah and paid for by one of the most unimaginative, antiseptic publishers ever?

    After the period cool painted cover came a photo interior featuring Martin the Martian introducing himself through a six inch long brick of text against a forest green background. I groaned at the prospect of reading it, but once I started, found it breezy and insightful. I never watched the show as a kid, but always assumed it was a gender switched I Dream of Jeannie. It's much more of a reversal than that, as Martin is highly intelligent and capable with his alien powers, but a planet full of stupid monkey people keep managing to foil his bids to return home. In spite of his windbag arrogance (hell, because of it,) Martin is engaging, and you really root for him.

    "Destination Mars" comes from Gold Key's My Favorite Martian #2, which as a volume only lasted nine issues. Hermes Press really wants to soak you on the hardcover, which only collects seven issues with "bonus material" for a whopping $49.99. You can get Good/VG grade copies of eight issues online for less than that, but I must admit that the glossy paper stock and potent colors make for a fine presentation. The story, presumably by Paul S. Newman, is a gas. Dan Spiegel's art is much cleaner and less idiosyncratic than one would expect from his better known work, and though it's strictly journeyman, it tells the tale clearly. I enjoyed how straightforward and unpretentious this comic was, and appreciate the completeness of it all. Done-in-ones are a lost art, clearly. Make more comics like this with your highfalutin' so-phisti-cation, why don't you?

    The Transformers: Regeneration #80.5 (IDW, 2012, Free)
    I liked a given Transformer for only as long as it took me to turn it from a robot to a machine of another sort and back. I once got a little extra oomph out of one by Transforming it in front of a strobe light. Also, I was poor, so I typically was stuck with the off-brand Go-Bots, or really shitty miniature Transformers like Bumblebee and the cassette tape bird things. I have yet to see any of the movies, and avoided the cartoon as much as possible.

    "Regeneration One" is a love letter to old comics I rarely read and had no interest in. This includes employing the same tired old talent that helped guide the Marvel series to cancellation. Lip service is paid to this being a fresh, accessible start, but I found it tedious, uninvolving, and obtuse. I halfway know a number of these characters, which is good, since not a single one gets a proper introduction. It's all about epic scale, stoking old fires, a Thunder Clash of Soundwave and fury, signifying nothing.

    There's a three page preview of "Transformers: Autocracy," which looks like it was edited by Roger Corman. Everything that isn't in complete shadow is poorly lit, and you can only tell what is going on in the broadest strokes. There's one panel of Optimus Prime punching an unidentifiable area of another robot that's abstract cubism with a dialogue balloon and a sound effect. It's some of the least competent storytelling I've seen in recent memory.

    Tuesday, June 5, 2012

    A Frank Review of "Stanley" (1972)

    The Short Version? Snakes on a First Blood. Wait-- what?
    What Is It? "Thriller."
    Who Is In It? Alex fucking Rocco.
    Should I See It? God, no.

    1971's Willard quite successfully played on people's (mostly women peoples) innate fear of rats (or mice, as the case may be) and their creepy introverted masters. In ripping it off, Stanley went up the food chain for a more widely reviled critter, the rattlesnake (plus water moccasins, in a coolish scene.) Unfortunately, the slithering stars are severely hampered by all the humans ruining everything. Chris Robinson plays a nutcase Vietnam vet whose only love in the world is snakes. The Godsfather's Alex Rocco plays the main villain, who I caught not too long ago in Blood Mania, and he has more to do here. Rocco pays slimy dudes to capture snakes for commercial exploitation (like this movie!) and they already killed the vet's daddy when he got in the way. The vet goes on a 'roaring rampage of revenge,' except with hissing, and the snakes do all the real killing, but there's definitely a rampage. When the vet runs out of legitimate targets, he just starts dicking with people in general, so you know this is going to end badly.

    Stanley has some alright gonzo shit going on, but Chris Robinson handles the snakes so comfortably, it gives them a serene aura that cancels out their menace. Each snake attack is telegraphed minutes in advance, so you know who's going to get it and how every time, smothering the life out of any semblance of suspense. I was amazed/horrified to learn that all the snakes were real, which makes this a serpentine snuff film. Watch living mice swallowed whole, rattlers blown to pieces by a shotgun, and snakes beaten savagely by the body of one of their own used as a whip. It's batshit there at the end, but also senseless and inhumane. The film is awkward and padded like most '70s grindhouse garbage, and I couldn't recommend it for that alone, but I'm doubly mortified by actual harm being inflicted in the pursuit of squatting this turd out.

    If you must, you can see the full feature for free...

    Saturday, June 2, 2012

    Wednesday Is In Child-Sized Portions For All I Care #149

    Atomic Robo Free Comic Book Day 2012
    Bongo Comics Free-For-All! / SpongeBob Comics Freestyle Funnies
    The Rockhead & Zinc Alloy 2-For-None!

    Atomic Robo / Neozoic / Bonnie Lass Free Comic Book Day 2012 (Red 5 Comics, 2012, Free)
    Atomic Robo is a robot created in the 1920s by Nikola Tesla who battles science gone awry with his organization, Tesladyne. For once, the execution on something like this matches the potential of the premise. This was a really fun story that's good enough to be enjoyed by all ages, but the adults will catch more of the jokes. I'll keep an eye out for an inexpensive trade for further sampling.

    Neozoic is one of those things where it's a parallel timeline with people brandish swords and carrying walkie talkies and mind controlling dinosaurs. It is also exactly the sort of thing you expect when you hear that, by which I mean a muddle of genre tropes and flat characters speaking in opaque exposition. Did I mention that it's an excerpt from the first issue of a direct sequel. It reads like that, too.

    Bonnie Lass had better characters and art, as well as the good sense to break the fourth wall and just tell the reader what is going on. On the other hand, there's maybe a few new/re-dialogued panels, and the rest is an underwhelming excerpt. I'm not won over.

    Bongo Comics Free-For-All! / SpongeBob Comics Freestyle Funnies (Bongo, 2012, Free)
    "Tales of the Springfield Bear Patrol" was a Simpsons story. I lost virtually all interest in that show when its seasons still numbered in the single digits, but if you like this sort of thing, it's not a bad example of such. I enjoyed Sergio Aragonés' "My First Peso" more, as the artist reminisced about his earliest paid work. It's not the sort of thing I'd pay money for myself, being light nostalgia and all, but it was fine for free.

    On the flip side, I don't understand how you can get away with offering an unlicensed Silver Age Aquaman comic that's so on the money in imitation that I can't even see it being covered under parody. Still, the Mermaid Man story was amusing and well drawn/colored in period style. James Kochalka supplied some "Spongefunnies" strips in the back that were nifty.

    The Incredible Rockhead & Zinc Alloy 2-For-None! (Capstone, 2012, Free)
    Rockhead is the kind of super-hero that you might have come up with in a grade school class using found objects, so it's perfect for its target demographic. C.S. Jennings art is the right shade of crude. It makes a lot more sense to have a rock-paper-scissors battle in this context than, say, John Byrne's Trio. This is just an excerpt from a bookstore skewing tpb though, so it just stops rather than ends.

    I didn't like Zinc Alloy, "The Invincible Boy-Bot" as much. The art by Douglas Holgate was more polished, but Donald Lemke's script is trying harder than Scott Nickel's while accomplishing less. Where Rockhead makes the best of a lousy power set, Zinc is flush with gadgets that he is incompetent in employing. Aside from that though, the premises are so nearly identical as to be interchangeable. It's two white male suburbanites picked on in a classroom. I may like Rockhead better simply because I read it first.


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