Monday, December 2, 2013

Wednesday is Seconds of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents For All Anyone Cares #180

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2 (1966)
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Vol.2 #2 (1984)
Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2 (1985)
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2 (2011)
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2 (2013)

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2 (Tower, 1966, 25¢)
As much as I enjoyed the debut issue, the game steps up here. With all the exposition dispensed with, Dynamo visibly leaps into action from the first page. A romantic subplot is introduced, and Len Brown gets dressed down in a way unheard of in period comics. The Warlord is revised by Wally Wood into a darker, more mysterious foe. Wood also takes back his crown as master of beautiful women with the smart and capable Alice Robbins. The physical threat is presented by Dynavac, his garb alluding to medieval torturers/executioners, marking his as a creepy, intimidating presence. He also strongly recalls the initial appearance of Doomsday to such a degree that I'd be surprised if DC hadn't taken a cue from Tower in his design. An exciting story with a twist ending uncommon even today.

NoMan continues to be my favorite strip, thanks to the wildly inventive application of the hero's powers and vulnerabilities. It's also tough to go wrong with an army of "zombie" soldiers for NoMan to toss about like he was channeling Kirby Captain America. My only complaint is that the art by Ayers, Orlando and Wood removed the shadowy dread of Crandall's initial strip.

There's no writing credit on Menthor, but I wouldn't be surprised if Mike Sekowsy was learning his craft on the script himself. There are a lot of amateur mistakes and crazy logic leaps, but the overall feel is reminiscent of his later DC work on Wonder Woman and "Manhunter 2070." It's still fast moving and fun, just with an element of Axe Cop insanity.

Dynamo triumphs in the second half of his story, with striking imagery and a major reveal that thankfully wasn't drawn out, though the resolution was a tad pat. Then there's a text story, "Junior Thunder Agents," which offers a flimsy manual for kids to form their own local fan club and immediately begin having irresponsibly violent adventures involving teen gangs running protection rackets. The big book wraps with T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad taking on a straw Cuba and cavalierly losing a member who surprisingly wasn't one of the two brunette males who happened to be rendered nigh-indistinguishable in the story by gas masks. That would haunt them later, not least for it spawning decades of morbid self-pitying monologues from Guy Gilbert. My favorite part was the random inclusion of a nuke-spawned gillman. Well, that and Kitten in yoga pants. She also had the. best. hair.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Vol.2 #2 (JC Comics, 1984, $1.00)
The second and final issue of this incarnation picks up and more briskly advances the story from the debut. Dynamo battles a big purple monster type thing that never gets explained, then teams up with Iron Maiden in the most predictable fashion, given the "couple's" history. Wally Wood's Agents meet Wally Wood's Mars Attacks giant insects, plus some weird celestial overlord works from the shadows, recalling Steranko S.H.I.E.L.D. Ronald Reagan worshipers may want to check out his notable cameo. The female Menthor continues to be teased, and would be the worst copyright infringing element once Deluxe and Solson Publications tried their bootlegs. Vulcan was properly introduced instead, as a sonic blaster slowly growing deaf, and a second whiny bitchboy love interest for Kitten Kane, the poor dear. Most of the Agents have a spotlight of some sort, but I got the biggest kick out of the grizzled Squad, with Weed getting the best comic relief moment. To be continued eight months later in an Archie Adventure Series anthology...

Charlie Boatner's dialogue doesn't improve much on Chris Adames', but the overall tone lightens to make the mayhem more of a romp in the vein of Woody. Lou Manna and Paul Bonanno split pencil duties, but the art star is Willie Blyberg, who keeps the look consistent and enriched by lavish inks. Murphy Anderson supplies a nifty centerfold "poster," there's a fun gag image by "Maurizio," but my favorite was the unsigned back cover featuring Iron Maiden.

Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2 (Deluxe, 1985, $2.00)
David M. Singer offers even more editorial text this month, with both candor and pomposity. The personality sure set the line apart, though.

Dann Thomas' Raven script was better this time, as it toned down the purple prose and focused on providing the origins of the hero's relationship with the nefarious Phoenicia. It was difficult to read for a new reason-- production errors rendering some of John Workman's lettering nigh indecipherable. I like Craig Lawson's design more than Raven's, as he recalls Adrian Chase. The art was more consistent, with Bill Wray doing a decent job over Perez's layouts, but their styles weren't the most compatible.

Tom & Mary Bierbaum made their writing debut on the Lightning story, and for a character history summation with transparent foreshadowing, it was okay. Since there's virtually no action and a lot of repeating panels, Rick Bryant has an easier time with Keith Giffen's pencils. The interaction between the two featured characters is inorganic, but the story does begin to pay off a long in waiting subplot.

There's an ad for "The Deluxe Comics Line of Designer Posters" that you could send away for, but in an example of slitting one's own throat, the Perez Menthor one is a pin-up in this issue, and George's Iron Maiden is used as a centerfold. I'm sure the full sized posters were nicer, but these would do in a pinch, right?

Finally,the team story by Steve Englehart and Dave Cockrum, which remains the weakest link. It's improved by focusing on Lightning, though it covers much of the same ground as the Giffen story. There's no line of dialogue spoken when it could be shouted hysterically at other characters. The story has tonal issues, since it seems to be taking Lightning's deterioration seriously, but then drops in a moment of broad comedy in the midst of the heavily whipped pathos. The result is neither sad nor funny, just kind of dumb, and the grandstanding on display wore out any enthusiasm I had going in.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2 (DC, 2011, $3.99)
Wildstorm in their heyday produced the Vertigo of super-hero comics. This is what that was. Nick Spencer does a great job of painting a portrait of the new Lightning, CAFU is better at being John Cassaday than the real one's been in years, and I especially liked Chriscross' work on the flashback sequences. It was an exceptionally good story for the dollar I paid to read its thirty pages. However, had I paid cover price, I'd be less congratulatory. There are two spreads of a guy running fast with minimal background. There are numerous virtually silent pages. Most pages consist of 3-4 panels with a caption box or a dialogue balloon each. It's an eight page back-up spread across an extra-length issue. Quit writing for the trade, motherfuckers.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2 (IDW, 2013, $3.99)
This multi-incarnation review project got pushed back by this issue shipping late, so I'll try not to hold that against it. The second outing of the latest iteration digs deeper into Wally Wood's toy box, but then reconfigures the components differently. Guy Gilbert and Lightning are more properly introduced, as the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad starts to fill in. I didn't mind Kat Kane's being excluded from that line-up by being promoted up at first, but a major alteration to her backstory bends my nose out of shape. The tone strikes a weird balance between snark (which to be fair was part of the original T.H.U.N.D.E.R. formula) and nostalgia (this reads like what you would expect from a Bronze Age issue of Marvel G.I. Joe if it had more period-appropriate art.) Part of what I liked about the Tower and Deluxe Comics series was that it was on the bleeding edge of the four color forum for its time, where IDW is more like JC Comics in recalling an earlier time and properties only contemporaneous to T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. In short, it's a competent, mildly amusing book I'm buying more for the property's past glory than any present one, exactly the sort of thing that would have kept me reading DC Comics pre-New 52, but the opposite of what my better inclinations should support.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Deathmatch Volume One (2013)

At its heart, Deathmatch is just a more lethal variation on Marvel's Contest of Champions and Secret Wars (which is directly referenced in an alternate cover) with off-brand analogues of more famous super-heroes. What does it say about our culture that this is only one of two current books in which super-people are forced into deadly gladiatorial combat by mysterious beings working toward unrevealed ends? It says The Hunger Games made a lot of money, and publishers want some. At least the comic book medium ripping off the old trope is much easier and more gratifying these days than tired Comic Code Approved variations on Ben Hur, Rollerball, and the like.

While Marvel is busy murdering D-list teen characters for profit in Avengers Arena, BOOM! advertised transparent copies of all your favorite heroes in no-holds-barred mortal combat. They didn't quite deliver, not because of fault in the product, but because it's better than it was probably intended to be. While writer Paul Jenkins works in stock types, not dissimilar from generated characters in an '80s roleplaying game (oh so Champions,) they're not blatantly derivative enough to fulfill the role of the Squadron Supreme vs. the Extremists, or whatever. You can trace Spider-Man or the Hulk in the DNA of new introductions like Dragonfly and Nephilim, but different origins, quirks in powers/personality, and the inventive designs of series artist Carlos Magno differentiate the book's characters from their intended parallels. By making the mistake of hiring people who care about their craft and are possessed of imagination, Deathmatch baits-and-switches costumed gore porn with a solid book.

The series is not without fault, however. It recalls Keith Giffen's "Five Years Later" Legion of Super-Heroes stories, involving dozens of characters that aren't thoroughly introduced speaking familiarly about matters rendered obtuse to a reader lacking key information. It's also terribly distracting having obvious swipes like The Rat (Rorschach) working alongside more general types like Sable, because in the back of your mind the reader is trying to figure out "who they really are" instead of focusing on the story. The scripts are disjointed, as if they were first drafts written at different times, or sections were edited out without bridging material replacing them. Then there's the fatigue that comes with the umpteenth out of control faux Superman being managed by ersatz Batman, although the book is good about borrowing from less well worn capes. However, so many characters are killed so quickly, there's a strong detachment from the proceedings, as obscurities the reader isn't invested in fight to the death in less than thrilling fashion. It's frustrating that everyone is keeping secrets from one another and the audience while constantly teasing their revelation. That might make sense in a feudal fantasy setting, but among four color mystery men in a true life-or-death circumstance, the authorial hand is waving inches from your face declaring "I'm not touching you! I'm not touching you!" The book lives or dies based on how steeped the reader is in comic book cliché, so the withholding of standard exposition becomes antagonistic.

Deathmatch is interesting despite these complaints. The main characters hook you, and there's such variety in the designs that you want to look at these figures interacting. The plot is never boring, and you do want to find out the truth of all the goings on. The art is quite intricate, and the storytelling sensibility recalls European sci-fi strips more than common American crap. Even if you find the premise unsavory, the writing and art are simply too good to pass on sampling at $9.99, and I'll be back myself for the second volume. The knowledge that the series wraps in a third volume is definitely a motivator when so much in this first edition strings readers along, though. I'd say Strikeforce: Morituri fans should especially give it a peek. Both books are less about violent death than its emotional impact, and are the better for it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ferals Volume 2 (2013)

I’ve heard True Blood called Twilight for (horny) adults. I haven’t read the True Blood comics, but I have read IDW books, and they tend to shy away from sexually explicit material. If that is the case, then perhaps Ferals is the true True Blood of comics, except way gorier. At its essence, Ferals is a What If…? where Jason Stackhouse actually got turned into a were-whatever in Hotshot. There’s wannabe Vikings in this one too, and a Russell Edgington stand-in, but they’re all werewolves in this version. The details are unimportant. It’s a campy, ultraviolent supernatural soap opera with a lot of boning.

This is where the spoilers (for the book, not True Blood) start. I was wary of jumping into this trade about seven months after reading the last, but there’s a very quick recap of the previous volume in the first few pages of dialogue, and none of it matters anyway. Jason Stackhouse survived the bloodbath that closed the previous season, and the surviving F.B.I. agent recruits him to investigate other towns where traces of ferals (werewolves) have been found. He’s saddled with a female partner and a cover identity, so aside from three characters (two quite minor) and a premise carrying over, this might as well be an themed anthology installment rather than a continuing narrative.

Jason Stackhouse is a bit more of a bona fide protagonist this time, since he’s been properly initiated and is basically just going by the numbers in a similar situation to the first volume. Again, the details don’t matter. Nobody is meant to care about these characters. Everyone in the book is simply fodder for fucked-up turns involving either rough carnal episodes or savagery inflicted upon the human/lupine body. There’s also a nice big blockbuster finale that would break the budget of a TV show, so I guess that validates it as a comic book experience, but the story itself is as ephemeral and the choices as arbitrary as the last several (bad) seasons of the vampire show (or the worst of the zombie show.)

Gabriel Andrade continues to be one of Avatar's best artists, drawing out the maximum allowable entertainment value from all the writhing bodies and werewolf viscera. I suspect he'll be recruited for something higher profile sooner rather than later. David Lapham trades in audacity that keeps the reader engaged during the act of reading, but the unsatisfying cliffhanger endings and the emphasis on plot developments over characterization color the lasting perception of the series. I think I'll give it one more "season" to see if it's going to go anywhere, mostly out of love for werewolves and softcore porn, as opposed to the merits of the work taken objectively.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Wednesday Debuts the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents For All Anyone Cares #177

I joined Twitter at the first of August, two weeks later the latest volume of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents debuted, and not a single person I follow said dick about it. As a one man corrective measure, I've decided to review T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1. All five of them, spanning nearly fifty years. Before anyone gets pedantic, I'm talking about full color non-reprint first issues of (presumed) ongoing series titled "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" or a reasonable derivation of same. Don't come whining to me about JCP Features, Hall of Fame Featuring the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Blue Ribbon Comics, Thunder, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Action or Omni Comix or any of the solo titles/guest appearances, though if I keep doing this for long, I'll likely get to most of them.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (1965)
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Vol.2 #1 (1983)
Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (1984)
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (2011)
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (2013)

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (Tower, 1965, 25¢)
Cheapjack dime novel publisher Tower decided to cash in on both the comic book super-hero and spy crazes of the mid-60s by publishing an extra-sized anthology title following the adventures of The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves. The brainchild of 50s great Wally Wood and manned by his friends, the premise was introduced in a four page prologue in which U.N. scientist Professor Jennings is murdered by the evil spies of "The Warlord." Jennings' legacy is a cache of devices that bestow powers unto top agents selected by T.H.U.N.D.E.R. The first full story centered on one Len Brown, who gladly trades desk duty for the chance to wear a belt that temporarily increases his strength and density. This was not without complications, which include the luscious Iron Maiden and her armored henchmen. Wood's art is glorious, and the story happily flouts the conventions of the day.

The second story debuts aged Doctor Dunn as an associate of Jennings who permanently transfers his consciousness out of his decrepit body into a series of androids. As if that wasn't enough, "NoMan" also gets one of Jennings' devices, a cape that renders him invisible. This serves him well against the odd menace of Demo (hard "e," like "demon.") The art of golden age ace Reed Crandell sets a tense, grim mood, and I dug the creepiness of his inhuman hero. There's also a two page NoMan text adventure by Larry Ivie that was tedious with plot details and lack of panache.

Menthor really really looks like the Atom, especially when drawn by Gil Kane for half the story. However, "perfect" agent John Janus is secretly a spy for the Warlord, though the helmet he wears in costume forces him to perform good deeds against his will. His power set is bog standard telepathy/telekinesis, but his conflicted nature is intriguing. George Tuska pencils half the tale, and there normally would have been a serious disparity, but between some rather hacky non-effort from Kane, consistent inks by Mike Esposito, and Tuska's only being halfway to his '80s nadir, it pans out alright. I'll point out that after having read a lot of Manhunter from Mars strips, the Janus/Warlord dynamic is very similar to old Marco Xavier/Faceless yarns.

I don't actually own a copy of this original first issue, so my review material comes from 2002's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives, Volume 1. I have to say, the forward by Robert Klein and Michael Uslan is shit. There's a bit of useful historical and anecdotal material on the first couple of pages, but then they spend six-and-a-half synopsizing every story collected in the fucking hardcover. I skimmed the passages for editorializing, and found that they made a point of shitting on the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad tales. Ivie and Mike Sekowsky basically sneak a war story into the book, and these two little assholes can't handle that, but it's actually a fun piece. I found Kitten Kane much sexier than Iron Maiden, and loved the varied facial and body types given to the squad members. They're basically the post-war Blackhawks, including the red tunics, and they're a hoot.

Finally, Wood returns to close out the bridging story, as the forces of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. confront the Warlord's evil plot. Dynamo has more room to show off his cocky side, everyone gets a spotlight moment, and you know it's pretty as a pasture to gaze upon. The characters are still being defined, and there are plenty of clunky moments throughout the book, but it's still a gas to read these stories today.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Vol.2 #1 (JC, 1983, $1.00)
As I understand it, Archie Comics wanted to reprint the old Tower stories, and to get the opportunity from new copyright holder John Carbonaro, they agreed to distribute his self-produced relaunch of the property. It only lasted a couple of issues, and upon re-reading it today, I found it to be much better than I remembered. Of course, I remembered it stinking on ice, so that's a backhanded compliment.

Scripter Chris Adames had done a few stories for Creepy, but this series marked the end of his career. The plot is the worst sort of Bronze Age team book drivel, beginning in medias res to launch into violent action. As it carries on into tense discussion between the West and the Soviets, the intent was surely to evoke James Bond, but it functions to distance the reader emotionally from the grand scale tumult and stalls significant character introduction for eight pages. It does not help that the course change is prompted by Lightning standing on a gargoyle atop a rain swept rooftop, cursing his fate as lighting crashes in the background. It's a bit much, yes? This also begins a pattern of dialogue serving almost solely as exposition, even as it describes emotions rather than communicating them.

Continuing a theme of introductory splash pages, the Raven gets to be a flying Wolverine in a wholly unnecessary aside, battering some random punks. The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad shows up to remind everyone that Reagan is in office, but it also offers one of the only attempts at the sort of levity Wood's books were known for. Dynamo pops in for the finale, which in contemporary comic fashion was in no way the conclusion of the story, instead wrapping with an obligatory last page character reveal.

Again, the story isn't inherently awful, but it is so much a product of its time that it chops any specialness the Agents had off at the knees. Instead of truly reviving the spirit of the Tower comics, it just transports their characters right smack dab into 1983, even as their retro look and silly names ensure readers of the time would not embrace them as they would the exact same product already proven on the stands. However, I have to say that the art by Lou Manna and Willie Blyberg (with a sharp assist from James W. Fry) is mighty fine, and makes it a worthwhile purchase if you're already a fan. Manna recalls Wood without aping him, and it's a damned shame he only did a little work for DC in the late '80s and Hero Comics in the early '90s after this.

Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (Deluxe, 1984, $2.00)
David M. Singer was an attorney and associate of Carbonaro's who came under the assumption that the property was in the public domain based on the lack of a copyright notice in their first published comic. He then raised a bunch of Wall Street money and paid top artists several times their normal pages rates for a high end relaunch of his own. Never mind that Singer used material from later, copyright protected issues of the Tower comics and that he even borrowed from Carbonaro's own efforts. Needless to say, Carbonaro sued Singer's effort into oblivion, and his estate now owns Singer's material.

The Deluxe series is what turned me on to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, so I had rosy memories of the books. As with my misperception of the JC series, on re-reading, I found that I had given this book too much credit. Doesn't make it bad exactly, but it's shy of good.

George Perez provides a gorgeous cover and part of a Raven story. Dave Cockrum had to finish the pencils, but it looks like Perez may have inked him for continuity. He based a belly-dancing femme fatale on his own wife, and even on the Cockrum pages, she's drawn exactly the same. Regardless of who laid out what, it's a good looking Bondian adventure, marred by a terrible script by Dann Thomas with painful dialogue and illogic. But then there are pin-ups by Jerry Ordway and Steve Ditko, so you try to put it past you.

Next is a Menthor tale by Journey frontman Stephen Perry (or not) and Keith Giffen deep in his José Muñoz period. Rick Bryant can't tighten Giff up like Bob Oksner could, so the art is fairly ugly and obtuse. The story is well-intentioned but dumb as it buys into a Death Wish scenario as played out from a bleeding heart leftist angle. But then there are pin-ups by Stan Drake and Pat Broderick, so you try to put it past you.

Finally, there's a team story by Steve Englehart and Dave Cockrum. Is it hubristic? Well, Englehart made a point of retaining the copyright to his script as indicted by the indicia, at least until Carbonaro claimed it, even though it's a steaming pile of shit. Everything I criticized in the JC Comics story is magnified here, with the hammiest of dialogue and the most repellent characterization. The cherry on top is the need to drag in a plot point from the second issue of the 1964 series that was actually resolved, but not to Englehart's liking, so he got all Roy Thomas up in its guts. Meanwhile, Cockrum is 100% at his Cockrummiest, so if you adored his second run on X-Men like most of us, there's more of that here. We really needed a couple more pin-ups at the end to cleanse the palate of that sorry friggin' cliffhanger.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (DC, 2011, $3.99)
A bunch of indie publishers tried to follow Singer's lead, but the lawsuit put a swift end to that, and Carbonaro's rights were eventually upheld. Throughout the 1990s, Carbonaro shopped the property as a license to a variety of publishers, but revival efforts were repeatedly killed either by market instability or Carbonaro's dissatisfaction with creative directions. DC Comics got a few issues into production of a bid in the early 00's, but Carbonaro didn't care for it, and only reprint material came out of the company while he was alive. However, with his passing in 2009, DC finally progressed with new material for the license.

To me, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents are one of the gems of indie super-heroes, so it never set well with me for DC to lay there paws on the property, especially in the scummy Didio era. I'm also not fond of the concept of $4 comics, so I waited this series out until I dug it out of a dollar (or less?) bin at a con.

My apprehension aside, this was a pretty good book, except that it has as little to do with the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents as it can possibly manage. Nick Spencer's script is largely about promoting Nick Spencer as a writer for the Big Two, employing a non-linear narrative and focusing on office workers who bear as much of a resemblance to Everett K. Ross and Nikki Adams as the whole book does Christopher Priest's Black Panther. I hasten to add though, Black Panther was a very good book, and Spencer also turns the Agents into Peter B. Gillis' Strikeforce: Morituri, which was another revolutionary title. Now, the unfortunate part is that 2011 is not 1986 or 1998, just as Snatch wasn't Pulp Fiction, but there are a lot worse things to be.

All the throat cutting and back stabbing and wibbily wobbly timey wimey (and that one blatant Steranko S.H.I.E.L.D. rip-off) don't leave any room to get into the characters or even the story really, but it's a pretty good stunt on Spencer's part. The attractive art by Cafu and Bit, along with the promise of Spencer and proper characterization next time, are enough to lure a body back for a second sampling.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (IDW, 2013, $3.99)
Finally, we come to the latest iteration of the property, with IDW publishing the book the year following DC wrapping their incarnation. I'm willing to pay the four bucks a month just to support the team being carried by an independent publisher again. Curiously, their approach is probably the most traditional ever. The book starts with only NoMan and Lightning as active agents, but that's just to create a scenario wherein Len Brown can begin his hero's journey to become Dynamo. Rather than Brown being an everyman in the more common sense, he's just not a trained agent here, but is an exceptional human being solely capable of using the Dynamo belt. Destiny much? Phil Hester's story is safe and familiar, while Andrea Di Vito's art is perfectly sound super-hero stuff. It's nice. It's agreeable. They got Jerry Ordway back for a variant cover. It has nods of the hat to the original series. In other words, it's pussy, so we'll see if it competes with the other second issues next month, or if it just sits in my lap and comforts me with softly purring nostalgia.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

newuniversal: Everything Went White (2007)

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of "Marvel Comics" (as opposed to Timely/Atlas/etc., launched in 1939,) it was decided to update the formula that made the work of Lee, Kirby & company so successful by creating a self-contained line of more realistic takes on comic book concepts. This New Universe would be stripped of most pure fantasy elements, geared for comparatively grounded science fiction, or at least would feature less ridiculous spandex stuff in a real time setting. A "white event" lit skies around the globe for a moment, and signaled the shift from the real world as the readers knew it to one that included manned robot suits, occasional aliens, and modest super-powers. The 1986 launch was much hyped, but the eight core titles were not very well received, half canceled after the first year. Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter was one of the project's primary architects, but he was fighting wars on all fronts between creative, editorial and management, and was himself canned in 1987. Shooter would later place most of the blame for the New Universe's lackluster creative pool and slapdash production on his successor, Tom DeFalco, and on a series of budget scale-backs set by the suits who fired him. Convenient, yes, but it's worth noting that Shooter would later take the same basic concepts and caliber of washed-up veteran/neophyte talent to construct Valiant Comics.

Despite lasting only three years, a lot of readers from my generation have a sentimental attachment to the New Universe, so Marvel celebrated its 20th anniversary with a series of one-shot specials set in the relative glory days of the line, which also served to promote a six issue mini-series that would radically reboot the properties by Warren Ellis and Salvador Larroca dubbed newuniversal. The most obvious comparison to their approach would be how Ronald D. Moore took a corny '70s Star Wars knock-off with some brand value and turned it into the tense sci-fi political thriller Battlestar Galactica. The most obvious contrast to their execution of this approach is that only one of the two pulled it off. Warren Ellis is occasionally a great comic writer, but most often, especially when doing corporate comics, he's a willful hack. In other words, Ellis will write what he wants to no matter what, but he's perfectly willing to plug in the names of someone else's IP into his boilerplate cast-offs. Infamously, he once took a rejected proposal, changed his characters' names with minimal additional rewrites, and turned it into connecting mini-series dubbed "The Ultimate Galactus Trilogy." Ellis is faithful enough to the New Universe properties to make it clear that was not the case here, but his storytelling sensibilities run roughshod over them, and their unambitious employment are set to cruise control.

My favorite of the New Universe books was Star Brand, which offered an obvious author insertion protagonist for Jim Shooter, but it also allowed him to portray a deeply flawed hero with personal insight. Ellis reworks Kenneth Connell as a passive himbo in the 94th unnecessary Akira lift. Justice was one of the longest lived NU titles, featuring a mulleted anti-hero serving as judge and executioner of action movie bad guys. Peter David wrote much of the series, but there's clearly room for improvement in the concept. Ellis instead turns John Tenson into a super powered serial killer. Nightmask was basically a costumed version of the 1984 Dennis Quaid vehicle Dreamscape, but Ellis "improvement" is to trade out a heroic take on Freddy Krueger for Betty Clawman from the contemporaneous failure New Guardians. Instead of assisting with psychological disturbances through cooperative lucid dreaming, Izanimi Randall interacts with newuniversal's core plot device and teleports the players where they need to be. Spitfire and the Troubleshooters was probably the title closest to Ellis' aesthetic, but he does decide to infect its lead character with Extremis all the same, and her role is minor in this collection.

As Ellis is wont to do, the space between the NU characters is filled with archaeological digs that uncover ancient conspiracies, morally ambiguous government agents, a generally pessimistic tone, and 75% of the characters speaking in the same cynical voice as in every other Ellis script. The book isn't about anything besides setting up the revised characters for further adventures that, aside from three one shot specials, never materialized. There's some troubling subtext to John Tenson's first execution that blurs the line between mercy killings and hospice care, but I get the feeling that speaks more to a bungle than Ellis having anything of value to say about "the world outside your window."

While unexceptional and pointless, newuniversal would have been a reasonable excuse to pass some time if not for the atrocious artwork. Salvador Larroca photo references this thing to death. Not only is Bruce Willis the model for John Tenson, but it's specifically Willis playing Hartigan in make-up from the 2005 Robert Rodriguez movie Sin City (itself a comic book adaptation) with only a modification in the type of scar that mars his features. The unmistakable likenesses of James Cromwell, Johnny Depp, Leonard Nimoy and James Gandolfini are applied to prominent characters. Jenny Swann is less clear, but some panels are obviously meant to portray Angeline Jolie. Larroca has a trickier time with the woman in general, as one character seems the vary from Nichole Kidman to Charlize Theron, and I can't quite place the Asian actress Izanimi is lifted from. The artistic references are also there, as Larroca spends a lot of time aping Jae Lee, but there's a lot of Gulacy in there, and a melange of tropes from the 80s/90s wave of painted comics that recalls old Innovation books. The difference between Larroca's more familiar mangacentric approach in the sketchbook and the riffapalooza in the story pages is striking.

According the Wikipedia, Warren Ellis' computer crashed, taking with it files he was using to write those sporadic newuniversal specials, so he's given up on the project. Clearly, it meant a lot to him. Jonathan Hickman's now mining both this mini-series and the original books for Avengers material, so hopefully it will not have all been for naught, but in the meantime, I hear the Valiant revival is doing pretty well...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chronicles of Wormwood Volume 2: The Last Battle (2011)

There's a term used throughout this collection, "bitching out." Maybe it's an English thing, but that means something else entirely in the States. In what appears to be a prophylactic self-criticism, The Last Battle pussies out in a variety of ways, and seems to ask that you not judge it too harshly as it does so. What I'll be doing in this review is bitching out.

The first volume was like a Cliff's Notes encapsulation of Ennis' career long assault on Christian hypocrisy, as skewered by an unwilling metrosexual Antichrist with the help of a brain-damaged African-American second coming of Jesus Christ and a talking bunny named Jimmy. Presumably it was successful enough to warrant a sequel four years later with art by a higher end former DC Comics talent than was normally seen at Avatar. The problem is, after taking a literal road trip through Hell and taking on God and the Devil in one neat package, there isn't really anyplace else to go with these subjects. Instead, Ennis chose to tell a largely new type of story with preexisting characters who, while likable, aren't necessarily built for this sort of narrative.

Oscar Jimenez was an excellent choice to depict a quieter, more intimate struggle, but after the audacious comedy of the Burrows series, the disparity between volumes is as clear visually as it becomes textually. At about the halfway point, the primary concern of the plot is pushed to the back burner to bring up forced leftovers, including a primary villain with dubious motivation and underwhelming goals. At the same time, back-peddling on a concern related to Jesus also seems a bit pussy, like a means of addressing some unintended subtext by writing it out. Wormwood is still a well intentioned and pleasant enough read if you have an appropriate tolerance for disembowelment/deviant porn/etc., but it seems like a slight and unnecessary follow-up where it might have benefited Ennis to shape his main plot into something fresher in a different context. As it stands, if Rosemary's Baby had given birth to a Two Jakes, well, here you go.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

nurghophonic jukebox: "Hobo Humpin' Slobo Babe" by Whale

Written By: Whale
Released: 1994
Album: We Care
Single?: Top 40 international hit, #24 on U.S. Modern Rock Tracks chart

While I was a longtime music fan when it came to country and pop, I didn't really get into alternative music until I was introduced to the short-lived Houston radio station The Rocket by a couple of teenagers I worked with when I first started moonlighting at a comic shop. The station was blessed with a complete absence of DJs and very limited-to-no commercials in the early days. I was working most nights as a security guard, and the exposure to a wealth of classic new wave/goth plus the best in contemporary college rock helped keep me vital in the witching hour. Hearing this novelty tune always sends me back to the days of stomping around a parking lot and doing cartwheels to keep myself awake. I'm sure the lolita-chic of the video helped soften my heart to other Swedish bands, including my personal favorite, the Cardigans. Sadly, one day robo-DJs turned up, then more commercials, then super obnoxious live jocks. The Rockets basketball team probably took exception to the name, and Clear Channel ended up turning the station into "The Buzz." Twenty years later, the "modern alternative rock" station is still playing the same goddamned grunge songs like Kurt Cobain was frozen in carbonite, plus when the metal station folded in favor of reggaeton, they added "Mandatory Metallica" for maximum sell-out. I tried to dig up some more Whale when P2P was big, but yeah, you can basically call it a day right here without missing anything.

You hobo humpin' slobo babe
Get it off, get off, get off of me!
You hobo humpin' slobo babe
Get it off, get off, get off of me!

Baby, we don't love ya
Baby, we don't love ya, baby, yeah!
Baby, we don't love ya
Baby, we don't love ya, baby, yeah!
Baby, we don't love ya
Baby, we don't love ya, baby, yeah!

Seeking candy, on the shore
Lost her eyesight, teeth are poor
Left for dead, back for more
Left for dead...

Seeking candy, who sleeps around
Araid of telling, tiny sounds
Left for dead, left for good (seeking candy)
Left for dead, not understood (back for more)

But you... (back for more)
Always came back for more...

You hobo humpin' slobo babe
Get it off, get off, get off of me!
You hobo humpin' slobo babe
Get it off, get off, get off of me!
You hobo humpin' slobo babe
Get it off, get off, get off of me!
You hobo humpin' slobo babe
Get it off, get off, get off of me!

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! yeah!
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!

Seeking candy, out of line
Broken kneecap, velvet spine
Left for dead, left for good (seeking candy)
Left for dead, misunderstood. (back for more)

But you... (back for more)
Always came back for more...

You hobo humpin' slobo babe
Get it off, get off, get off of me!
You hobo humpin' slobo babe
Get it off, get off, get off of me!
You hobo humpin' slobo babe
Get it off, get off, get off of me!
You hobo humpin' slobo babe
Get it off, get off, get off of me!

Baby, we don't love ya, (seeking candy)
Baby, we don't love ya, baby, yeah! (out of line)
Baby, we don't love ya, (broken kneecap)
Baby, we don't love ya, baby, yeah! (velvet spine)
Baby, we don't love ya, (left for dead)
Baby, we don't love ya, baby, yeah! (left for good)
Baby, we don't love ya, (left for dead)
Baby, we don't love ya, baby, yeah! (misunderstood)

You hobo humpin' slobo babe
Get it off, get off, get off of me!
You hobo humpin' slobo babe
Get it off, get off, get off of me!
You hobo humpin' slobo babe
Get it off, get off, get off of me!
You hobo humpin' slobo babe
Get it off, get off, get off of me!

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!
(seeking candy)
(back for more)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Victories Volume 1: Touched (2013)

Michael Avon Oeming loved those high end late 80s/early 90s deconstructionist super-hero comics. I don’t personally know the guy or much of anything about him, but there’s some pages here where his storytelling techniques are so Sienkiewicz that he might as well have skinned the guy and turned the cured flesh into a suit and looked into a mirror saying he’d fuck himself. However, Oeming’s surface style is from an entirely different planet, so he can’t dazzle you into forgetting about a pedestrian Frank Miller action yarn through hoity-toity art school jazz hands. His latest creator-owned series The Victories was also sold with the exploitative zeal of a Millarworld travesty. “If you like to get fucked up and do fucked up shit—in imaginary spandex adventures—work out your problems with women and minorities by pandering to your basest desires in another bestselling mini-series soon to be optioned for a major motion picture: ID MONSTER!” I don’t have many reviews of Mark Millar books up on this blog, because I caught on to his one trick early, and it’s odious.

Back to Oeming, I didn’t approach this book as a fan by any stretch, since I’ve never embraced any of his creator owned projects or partnerships with Brian Michael Bendis. I thought he was a good match for Andy Helfer on DC’s short lived licensing of Judge Dredd around the time of the Stallone movie, but otherwise, he didn’t float my boat. Between my history with the guy and my disdain for the type of book Dark Horse made The Victories out to be, you could say I was a hostile audience. Also, did I mention that the book is called The Victories? We’re officially out of good names for super-teams.

The first two issues collected in this volume didn’t leave me questioning my initial prejudice. It’s one of those near future dystopias where half the narration comes from clearly biased news reports and every figure of authority is hopelessly corrupt, so that the populace prays for one brave libertarian avenger to restore liberty. Blech. There’s the usual cussing and ultraviolence, with a particular fetish for dismemberment you’d think would give an Islamic fundamentalist a hard-on. The protagonist is pre-Miller Daredevil making wisecracks like the second rate Spider-Man that he was, but in a Post-Miller/Mazzuchelli world of sadistic super-freaks. The team isn’t introduced until the second issue, predictably a bunch of assholes and a collection of tropes.

A funny thing happened in the third issue, though. For one, the hero turned out to be African-American, which wasn’t quite clear earlier on, because his race is completely inconsequential to the story. Secondly, his cool vigilante name is Faustus, but rather than being an arbitrary selection, that name was relevant to the story being told. Third, while this is meant to be a team book, Oeming was taking the time to thoroughly introduce this one member so that he's fully fleshed out and distinct from any other super-heroes, rather than the endless parade of analogues that are either slaves to a plot or promised depths that are never actualized. Fourth, this isn’t another nihilistic joy ride, but in fact a book dealing with the very real consequences of the types of transgressive acts Brian Azzarello trades in. Finally, The talking heads on the televisions began to sound less like pastiche and more like the writer addressing the all too familiar excesses of partisan media in an increasingly fascistic environment.

Rather than serving as a vehicle for propaganda or jumping on the sleaze circuit, Oeming is employing his many and obvious influences to tell a personal, human story, hopefully the first in an anthology vehicle more in line with Kurt Busiek’s Astro City than Garth Ennis’ The Boys. In some ways, it speaks to a truer form of heroism than the early tales of Peter Parker overcoming impossible odds to face common concerns. While darker and more adult, Oeming’s book is about inspiring people to rise above the horrors of life to make something better of their world. We could use more books like this, and I’m happy that Oeming finally set me straight on where he was coming from. I look forward to seeing what he has in store for the next volume...

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Bedlam Vol. 1 (2013)

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

Bedlam illustrator Riley Rossmo isn't going to be nominated for a 2012 Artist I Want To See Draw Things award either, and the whole premise is clearly Gotham Central fan fiction. No one would ever build a major U.S. metropolis under the name of "Bedlam," but as a way to have Arkham Asylum writ large over the whole of Gotham City, it's an appropriate conceit. The book is Spencer doing an unauthorized continuation of the Christopher Nolan Batman films, with the Heath Ledger Joker starring and the Christian Bale Batman reduced to a supporting role. There's even a Harvey Bullock in here. The main change-up is Detective Renee Montoya stepping into the Dana Scully/Dr. Joan Watson role as the distrustful skeptic who nonetheless ends up backing the plays of her more eccentric partner to investigate twisted homicides. As formulas go, you could do worse.

As diminishing as that summary sounds, Spencer's script is effective, with a mild twist in the first 48 page chapter that made me want to start the book over immediately to read it from a new perspective. From there, a Silence of the Lambs/Seven sensibility sets in-- gritty serial killers at play in a heightened reality that's grounded just enough to remain believable. Essentially, it's the Vertigo Batman comic, which would be one franchise spin-off I could get behind. In fact, I'm loving how Image Comics has essentially said "fuck it" and become Epic Comics (Verotika with less misogyny and more brains? A genre-skewing Fantagraphics with a better budget? Peak Wildstorm with penises?) Rossmo's art serves the material well, with a view of the world that's perpetually askew and a coarse, vulgar approach to the violence inflicted upon the human body. There's an ongoing dual narrative that helps explain the hows and whys of the situation, with one or the other always in the thick of some carnage you can't help but rubberneck. The first story comes to a satisfying, character-specific solution, and all the pieces are in place to make this work over the long haul. As an aging super-hero fan, I've been looking for more daring and fulfilling book to follow in the genre, and this looks to be exactly the sort of thing to scratch that itch. It's my hope that Spencer will continue do for the not-Dark Knight what Kirkman once did for not-George Romero zombies: geek out on the material thoroughly for an extended time as their enthusiasm infects the audience.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Walking Dead Volume 18: What Comes After (2013)

I've failed to enjoy The Walking Dead for so long, I decided to go back and read my previous reviews to determine when exactly the worm turned. I didn't cover Volume 11: Fear the Hunters in January of 2010, probably because I was bogged down with other things, but I described it as "incredible" while I moaned about the plodding, repetitive Volume 12: Life Among Them. It occurs to me that across three years and seven volumes, the cast is still basically in the same exact place, both in location and emotion. There are a few less people still with us (I predicted the wrong dead old timer of 17: Something To Fear, but the event itself played out as expected with a different neck in the noose,) although everyone is a shadow of their former self anyway, so what does that matter? I think 14: No Way Out was where the troubles really began, since it was built up at a time of maximum cross-media Walking Dead hypeage, but ended up circling right back to where it started from. As the band mourned deaths of folks most cared fuck all about in 15: We Find Ourselves, I found myself talking as much or more about the TV series, as it seemed to take two mediums running stories concurrently to give me enough material to write about for one review. The third season of the show managed to outshine the current books, if not the story's source material. It went out with more of a whimper than a bang, but Season 3's heights were high, and the trailer for Season 4 has me hyped for more Tyrese (who I've missed terribly in the comics) being joined by fellow The Wire alumni D'Angelo Barksdale. Now there's a show I need to get back to and finish.

Where was I? Oh yeah-- I thought all those menacing faceless figures on covers to comics collected in the previous volume, Something To Fear, meant that we'd get some cross-pollination; having Merle and Daryl Dixon turn up in a vicious rival group. The tease didn't amount to much-- a new villain named Negan who's kind of like TV Shane taken to the nth degree. Kirkman's also sworn to never use Daryl in the comics, but we'll see how long that oath lasts when the sales dip. This volume dealt with learning the vulnerabilities in Negan's group, and becoming better acquainted with the nutbar himself. This is done through a difficult to swallow contrivance, at a time when more and more ridiculously fantastic Mad Max elements are being introduced. The book has broken away from any semblance of reality, and gotten campy to the point where its increasingly limited appeal is skewing toward schadenfreude. "All Out War" is supposed to be the next big thing, and it had better be damned good, because otherwise it'll be really hard to rationalize continued purchase of a book doing donuts for half a decade.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Frank Review of Film/TV/Performance/Arts

[REC] (2007)
[REC] 2 (2009)
28 Days Later... (2002)
28 Weeks Later... (2007)
42nd Street Forever Vol. 1 (2005) & Vol.2 (2006)
50/50 (2011)
200 Cigarettes (1999)

A History of Violence
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
Across the Universe (2007)
Aeon Flux (2005)
The Amateurs (2007)
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
American History X (1998)
American Reunion (2012)
Amores Perros ("Love's a Bitch," 2000)
The Astronaut Farmer (2006)
Ator: The Fighting Eagle (1982)
Ator l'invincibile (1982)
Avatar: An IMAX 3D Experience (2009)
Avengers Assemble (2012)

BaadAssss Cinema (2002)
Le Battement D'ailes du Papillon (2001)
The Beast Within (1982)
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
Bigger, Stronger, Faster* (*The Side Effects of Being American)
Blood Mania (1970)
Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969)
Blue Manhatten (1969)
Boy Eats Girl (2005)
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
Brideshead Revisited (2008)
The Brother From Another Planet
The Brothers Bloom (2009)
Brüno (2009)
Burn After Reading (2008)

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
The Candy Snatchers (1973)
Captain America: The First Avenger 3D (2011)
Casino Royale (2006)
Che: Part One & Part Two (2008)
Children of the Living Dead (2001)
Choke (2008)
Chronicle (2012)
Coraline (2009)
The Crazies (2010)
Cruel Intentions 3 (2004)

D.C. Cab (1983)
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Dark Corners (2006)
The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Dawn of the Dead: European Version (1978)
Day of the Dead: The Need To Feed (2008)
Day of the Dead 2: Contagium (2005)
Day of the Woman (1978)
Dead and Gone (2008)
Deadgirl (2008)
Death Wish (1974)
The Devil's Hand (1961)
Diarios de Motocicleta (2004)
George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead (2007)
The Dictator (2012)
Die Hard 4.0 (2007)
District 9 (2009)
Drag Me To Hell (2009)
Dredd 3D (2012)

Emmanuelle (1974)
Evil Dead Trap
Exit to Eden (1994)
Eyes Without a Face (1960)

Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Farinelli: Il Castrato (1994)
Fatal Beauty (1987)
Fidel (2000)
Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw (2006)
Food, Inc. (2009)
The Fountain (2006)
Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare
Fright Night (2011)
Funny Games (1997)
The Fury

Gakuen Mokushiroku (2010)
The Gathering (2002/2007)
Ghost Rider
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Gods and Monsters (1998)
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
The Green Hornet (2011)
Green Lantern (2011)

Hacked To Pieces: The Rise and Fall of Slasher Movies
The Hamiltons
Happenstance (Le Battement D'ailes du Papillon, 2001)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: An IMAX 3D Experience (2009)
Henry & June (1990)
Hey, Mom! (1969)
Highschool of the Dead (2010)
The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
A History of Violence
The Hole (2001)
Hooker's Revenge (1974)
The Howling (1981)
Howling 2: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985)
Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988)
The Hunger Games (2012)

I Spit On Your Grave (1978)
The Ice Harvest (2005)
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
The Invasion
Iron Man (2008)
Iron Man 2: The IMAX Experience (2010)
Iron Man 3 (2013)

Jisatsu Saakuru (2002)
Juno (2007)

Kuffs (1992)

Låt Den Rätte Komma In (2008)
Léolo (1992)
Let the Right One In (2008)
Little Children
Live and Let Die (1973)
Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
Looper (2012)
Lord of the Flies (1963 & 1990)

Machete (2010)
Madmen of Mandoras (1963)
Maid in Sweden (1971)
Man of Steel (2013)
Marvel's The Avengers (2012)
Milk (2008)
The Monster Squad (1987)
Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

Network Two-Disc Special Edition (1976)
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008)
Night of the Comet (1984)
The Night We Never Met (1993)
Nightmare in Wax (1969)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

ParaNorman 3D (2012)
Penny Dreadful
Persepolis (2007)
Phantasm (1979)
Phantasm II (1988)
Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)
Phantasm: OblIVion
Pineapple Express (2008)
Popcorn (1991)
Prometheus (2012)
Pumpkin (2002)
Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Quantum of Solace (2008)
Quills (2000)

Rambo (2008)
[REC] (2007)
[REC] 2 (2009)
Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D (2010)
Resident Evil: Degeneration (2008)
Resident Evil: Retribution 3D (2012)
Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988)
Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993)
Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis (2005)
Rise: Blood Hunter (2007)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Rocket Science (2007)
Rogue Male (1976)
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Rudo y Cursi (2008)
The Ruins (2008)
The Running Man

S. Darko (2009)
The Sand Pebbles (1966)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Seraphim Falls (2007)
Sex Drive (2008)
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
The Shining (1980)
The Short Films of David Lynch
Shortbus (2006)
The Singing Detective (2003)
Sinister (2012)
Skyfall (2012)
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Snatch (2000)
Son of Greetings (1969)
Southland Tales
St. Ives (1976)
Stand By Me
Stanley (1972)
Star Trek (2009)
Suicide Club (2002)
Super 8 (2011)
Syriana (2005)

Teknolust (2002)
Terminator Salvation (2009)
Terrified! (1963)
Terror in the Aisles (1984)
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth (2000)
They Call Her One Eye (1974)
They Saved Hitler's Brain (1963)
Thor (2011)
Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1974)
Trailer Trash (2007)
Tropic Thunder
True Blood (1989)

V For Vendetta (2005)
V/H/S (2012)
Videodrome (1983)

W. (2008)
Waitress (2007)
Walk The Line (2005)
Watchmen (2009)
White Zombie (1932)
The Wolfman (2010)
The Woman in Black (2012)
The Wrestler (2008)

Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)
Zombi (1978)
Zombieland (2009)

Book vs. Movie/Movie vs. Movie
Abre Los Ojos vs. Vanilla Sky
Lord of the Flies (1954/1963/1990)
Reservoir Dogs vs. The Usual Suspects
Superman II: Richards Donner vs. Lester

Dead Like Me: Life After Death (2009)
Doctor Strange (2007)
The Girl's Guide to Depravity: Season 1 (2012)
Girls: Season One (2012)
His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th (2009)
Masters of Horror: Cigarette Burns
Masters of Horror: Imprint
Night Court: The Complete First Season (1984)
Night Court: The Complete Second Season (1984-1985)
Resident Evil: Degeneration (2008)
Superman: Doomsday (2007)
Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth (2000)
V, Season 1.1: 'Pilot' and 1.2 'There Is No Normal Anymore'" (2009)
The Venture Bros. - Season One

Music Videos
Retrospective: The Videos of Suzanne Vega (2005)

Juliana Hatfield at The Engine Room (2005)
Kids in the Hall 2008 Tour
Veruca Salt at The Engine Room 10/17/05


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