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.


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