Thursday, May 31, 2007

New Comics Delay

A small stack of great comics, each "tentacle free!"

Action Comics
Green Lantern
Amazons Attack
Shaolin Cowboy*
The Black Coat

*features tentacles

Superman books like Action Comics #850 are the kind I like to get because they show the value of a fat book packed with varied stories and muy bueno artwork, something rarely sustained in the myriad of monthly Superman titles. Also this particular ish features the debut of artist Renato Guedes along with his beautiful take on Supergirl. So beautiful, it would seem, that he's signed on to the regular Supergirl title in the coming months. DC looks to have listened to reason (and fans) by re-vamping the Supergirl book, taking steps away from its recently poor bimbo-inspired visuals. There is an article at Newsarama with new writer Tony Bedard, and it features lots of preliminary work by Guedes. Click away because I'm telling you, that guy can hella draw.

Shaolin Cowboy, whose issues come once every dawn's cry of a newborn unicorn, are worth every second of waiting. Darrow's lofty artistic weight continues to amaze and astound.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End


:: Yarr, ahead be semi-spoilers ::

- whew - this is a long movie. If you wish to peruse my thoughts on Dead Man's Chest, you may click the link. After loving Black Pearl and really liking Dead Man's Chest I was very much looking forward to World's End, but in the back of my head I knew it would not live up to my expectations. Still I was hoping for at least some cool pirate stuff, and that, thankfully, we get.

World's End is strange in that it in no way can stand on its own as a film. It would be virtually impossible to discern any one of the dozen plots without some knowledge of the first two films. So what happens is that World's End becomes this sort of sprawling epilogue, much of which was just not needed when there were elements I would have much preferred them to expand upon. And why any writer, director, or producer would want to include a dozen plots in one movie is beyond me. Think I'm exaggerating?

1. Rescue Jack Sparrow from Davey Jones Locker
2. Stop Davey Jones and the Flying Dutchman
3. Alliance with Singapore pirates
4. Break East India Trading Co. advance on pirates
5. Meet with the Pirate Lords
6. New Pirate King
7. Free the Sea Goddess Calypso
8. Calypso/Davey Jones angst
9. Elizabeth/Will Turner/Sparrow angst
10. Will Turner must free his father
11. Sparrow wants immortality
12. Pirate Lords Vs. EITC
13. ...dude, I can keep doing, I'm not kidding. I haven't even mentioned Barbossa!

If you have a high tolerance for exposition (not to mention a iron bladder), World's End is not bad in this respect. A large 85% of the film is story driven, and the action adventure parts are few and far between. This as opposed to Dead Man's Chest who's action adventure part was the entire second half of the movie... but it is the focus on story in the third pic that is ultimately its downfall. It is so very clear that there are much more interesting things going on, alot of the time I found myself thinking, "yeah this is okay, but get on with it already!"

There are a few things I felt a bit cheated out of. First and foremost was the concept of the gathering of the Pirate Lords. I had heard a bit about it and was really hoping that would be the focus of the movie. Chow Yun Fat even! Sadly Chow's Character of Pirate Lord Sao Feng is totally wasted (and not even very good). Shame on the storytellers for missing such a great opportunity. The gathering of the Pirate Lords does indeed happen and is pretty cool, but boy there could have been more here. The reveal that Jack Sparrow is one of the 9 lords comes out of nowhere in a matter-of-fact way, and I'm thinking the history behind how he became a lord has got to be much more interesting than just needing to be in attendance at the meeting. Actually during the play out I was thinking that Jack was not an actual Pirate Lord but everyone just thought he was and he'd have to reveal the last one though eventually earn the rank... but I digress.

With an overwrought focus on Will Turner's need to save his father, the introduction of Sparrow's father comes off as lackluster, again there has got to be a better story behind their relationship. The fact alone that piracy may be a Sparrow family tradition warrants some inspection, doesn't it? Sparrow Sr. appears to hold some lofty weight in the eyes of the pirate den, but for all I can figure it's just because he's the keeper of the Pirate Code. The Pirate Code being another nice tidbit totally glossed over and left behind.

The biggest miss is the appointment of the Pirate King, which was nicely done to start but left high and dry. Not to mention Elizabeth Swan's character as a whole is short changed something fierce. Prior films go through great pains to establish her as a strongly-willed type with a hankering for hutzpah, alas that tree is pruned fairly close by the end of the film. Off the top of my head I can think of at least three great directions she could have gone towards a much better ending to the film, regardless of the scenario lover Will Turner was placed in.

If you think adding to the film to explore the above would have been more than we could handle, I propose that there was tons of stuff the film could have easily done without. The stuff about Calypso? Sure that would have been cool, if it was the focal point and not a sub-plot. Dalma's character served no purpose other than to look creepy. Gone with Calypso and gone is the Davey Jones connection and that precious screen time (and needless exploration of Jones character who has enough going for him already). Jack Sparrow's delusions, which only serve to preclude that Sparrow is in fact insane and not as cool as we want him to be, the film would have done better without. I mentioned Sao Feng was wasted, and so much of the dealings and double crosses with the Singapore pirates is also unnecessary. Basically even without anything new I would have liked to see, the film could have been edited into a much tighter story.

The Pirates of the Caribbean movies, especially World's End, fall into this category of "Ultra Movie" where every shot is perfectly lit, every costume is minutely detailed, and every frame of CG was well paid for. I can imagine a gas-pump cash ticker up in the corner running over each scene because the one thing I can say for sure about World's end is that it looks great. And for at least some payoff, the finale is one hell of a finale. Yes, yes, we seemed to have been promised an armada-scaled battle between the East India Trading Co. and the Pirate Lords, that just doesn't happen. However the standoff between the Flying Dutchman and the Black Pearl was really amazing to me and I marvel at any director who could pull off as much as what was going on. Also the odd but operatic demise of Lord Cutler Beckett was a phenomenal visual which I can't say I've seen before.

My wish list aside, I actually liked World's End. I like alot of story and I'm already attached to the pirate characters so I wanted to see it played out. There are alot of good laughs and some great lines ("What, you think we should have called them the 'Nine pieces of things we happened to be carrying at the time?'") Ultimately the story was not what it should have been (not to be confused with what it could have been), but there was enough there for me to see it through. It is the weakest of the three Pirates films, tho there is hope for a better, tighter sequel to come, unburdened by a giant ensemble and multitude of plots. In fact I'm all for a whole new pirate adventure, completely recast and ready to explore the corners of pirate lore. For Pete's sake, what does a guy have to do to see some sea turtles??

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Vader: still prefers twin ion engine to minivan

Star Wars.com writes up The Vader Project, a display of crafty Vader helmets currently on display at Star Wars Celebration, this weekend in LA. Taking a cue from Kid Robot's Munny, the Vader Project appears to have an impressive list of artists attached including Shag, The Pizz, Kozik, and Mitch O'Connell. Plenty of links to artists sites in the article... (hit the myspace link for more helmet pics)

This week of course is the 30th anniversary of Star Wars, which is great and all, though I never thought "30" had any numerical significance other than being between 20 and 50. It's marketing to be sure, not unlike Disneyland's need to celebrate "anniversaries" every 5 years. That and just a reminder that 30 years have passed since I walked into that theater to have what in all honesty was a life-altering theatric experience. So, yay.

As a cherry on the ice cream sundae that is this week's hoo-ha, in what may be the most stunning display of fan appreciation ever, Attack of the Show's lovely Olivia Munn is appearing at Celebration in full Sail Barge Consort getup. Miss Munn, YOU ARE AWESOME. Knowing what you were getting into-- and I'm not just talking about the gold bikini-- I'm not sure whether to give mad props or just... oogle. Talk about Munny! :-O (via Egotastic)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lost Q's


If you're not caught up on Lost, -SPOILERS- may be waiting for you.

This season started slow, and I was losing interest. The first half of the season went at a snail's pace, barely progressing the core story at all. But upon the return from hiatus, the second half of the season really kicked into high gear and I thought were some of the best episodes yet. While alot of nagging questions were answered, even more aggravating ones appeared!


What happened to all the children kidnapped on the first night of the crash? They do not appear to live, work, or play with the Others. But Ben says they are "fine."

Walt and his father Michael left the island by boat. Or did they?

The Others presumably pre-date the Dharma team on the island, though its never clarified. They may be an offshoot of the Dharma team.

There was a time when particular Others clearly had access to travel to and from the island. On the island, they also have access to news and information. Clearly some of them wish to leave for good, but Ben's rule is law. Why?

Women who become pregnant on the island end up dying, and spooky experiments on Claire make her the exception. Is this really the mystery the Others are trying to solve?

BUT Ben and Rousseau's daughter, Alex, alive and well! No proof that Ben is the biological father, either.

When was Locke's father brought to the island, and how long had he been there? He is revealed after Locke blows up the submarine after all.

Kelvin, the original hatch inhabitant, is that all figured out?

Has Dr. Richard Alpert not aged in 16 years or is he just really good looking?

Big black cloud that can't pass through a sound barrier? WTF??

Jacob? WTF??????

Who are the dudes in the arctic tracking the island signal, and who do they work for? Penelope only or someone else?

Does Penelope have anything to do with Naomi's ship? Presumably no, but... whose story has yet to not be a pack of lies?


Last night's season finale was great! From the beginning I was curious as to the timeline of Jack's featured "flashback," there are references that could easily have placed it before the crash. But now we all know that is not the case, and even more mindbenders are presented:


Who died and had the lonely funeral? It could have been anyone, tho Kate balks at having to attend. This could have referred to Juliette, Locke (not keeping any friends on the island at the time), maybe even Ben. Or even someone who turns to play an upcoming key role. It really could have been anybody should Kate have decided to distance herself from anything island related.

Who is Kate living with?? "He'll wonder where I am..."

Jack has sunk so low into depression that he tries to use his dead father's prescription for drugs. But what drugs were he on exactly? He was also drinking heavily, which as a doctor he surely knew was a lethal cocktail. And you know, the suicide attempt. Holy crap, what happened?

Jack is recognized as a hero from the car crash, but not as a survivor of Flight 815. Presumably the return of crash survivors would have brought some notoriety... unless it was kept quiet. Was Naomi lying when she said the victims of the crash were presumed dead? Is there another cover up?

Is the whole return sequence a Desmond-type "vision?" Will the premier next season reveal this, or will we jump back and forth between the last days of the island and the return? Will it all focus on the return? Will they pull a Bobby Ewing and reveal the entire season was Jack's hallucination before using the radio?


We're at least two years away from knowing the answers to everything, but can it even live up to expectations? Lost is cool, but it's not that cool. They could easily go the route of explaining things scientifically with a hint of the supernatural, centering on the fact that Ben is probably insane. Or they could go the complete opposite and ask that we belive the island is a sentient extension of the Earth who's been trying to find ways to communicate with humans. At this stage, how can I not want to find that out? Those bastards got me for the long haul. I just want to know the size of their cohones. Imagine, if you will, that last night's episode was the last. That's balls.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

New Comics Day

I had some comics to buy and I done bought them.

The Spirit
Wonder Woman
She-Hulk
X-Men First Class Special
Iron Man: Hypervelocity
Doctor Strange: The Oath TPB
Madman
Satan's Sodomy Baby

Satan's Sodomy Baby is as disturbing as it lets itself on to be. Is it funny or just gross? Or is it funny because it's so gross? It's quite strange to see Eric Powell draw so well and yet so vile. Kinda like Frank Cho on New Avengers- rimshot!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Joy to the World

The new Taschen Catalog has arrived! Download your own PDF version here.

Publishing is one of the greatest gifts man has ever given himself.

Monday, May 21, 2007

I'm staying out

I first saw the MJ statuette on a random blog run, and yes, some chicks were a bit upset. My first impression of the image was an "oh man what have we done now" vibe. But you know, it's an Adam Hughes design, I can't not like it on some level.

Then the comics blogosphere, like, exploded. I thought about getting into the fray, then decided against it for a few reasons. The main reason is that I would be a complete and total hypocrite. The other reason(s) is that I have a natural ability to make women angry whether I intend to or not. Usually, but not limited to, by referring to them as "chicks" or the like. It's troublesome.

So my opinions on MJ I'll keep to myself. It comes down to that recent episode of South Park, "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson." Near the end, Stan admits to Token that he "gets it" because he'll never get it. Guys, make all the arguments you want, you'll never get it.

Instead I offer some links on the subject which I found to be fascinating reading.

Devildoll's LiveJournal
Girls Read Comics and They're Pissed
The Beat, pt 1
When Fangirls Attack

Friday, May 18, 2007

Supermarket

Another book by Brian Wood, this time with awesome art by Kristian.

In an unspecific, semi-near future that could just as easily be now, commerce rules everything. It is in this setting that a teenaged girl, Pella, violently has her life turned inside out as she discovers her quaint suburban world was all a cover for her parents' past notorious deeds. Forced on the run and caught between rival gangs out to get her, the mostly chase-based tale is high on action and intrigue.

Wood tells a solid adventure, and there is a definite attraction to Pella's situation, as well as her friends and enemies. But for me the real clincher here is the art by Kristian Donaldson. It is just so damn slick and yet has a wonderful edge to it. Crisp lines are mixed with drybrush and halftone patterns, but never erroneously. And the colors - oh man the colors! It's an incredible mix of neon and mutes, lots of smart overprint (or at least a damn good imitation), and a keen use of "shifted plate" effects throughout. Be sure and hit up Kristian's web site linked above for some Supermarket samples as well as the rest of his stunning gallery!

The book was originally a comic miniseries but I recommend the trade as it reads great as a collected story. It's published by IDW, and their packaging is nicely done. IDW has Supermarket at their site, and it's also available on Amazon.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

New Comics Delay

I drove several hundred miles for these comics. But what is missed in quantity is made up in quality.

Mighty Avengers
Ultimates 2
Batman

Always happy to see new Cho pages, tho the long-awaited finale of The Ultimates 2 is the eager read this week. Almost more so is the upcoming (eventually) hardcover collection. The big fat Marvel hardcovers look great on a shelf, I must say.

Indeed I passed on Countdown, the first issue didn't do anything for me and browsing the second didn't create an immediate need to purchase it.

UPDATE: It appears what Brian Hitch just can't do in two pages, he does in eight. Ultimates 2 #13 contains an impressive eight page gatefold of endless hell-spawned hordes facing off against the entirety of the Asgardian Viking Army. Oh and, you know, the Avengers. As an artist the mind boggles at where to even begin on such a composition, let alone coloring the damn thing. I wonder how it will be collected-- it would be just as impressive if it were single pages, which would probably work out better for the bound format, I think a gatefold would be a little awkward there. But anyways, wow.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Demo

I had heard about Demo for quite a while, all good things, just one of those books I never got around to until recently. I read so damn much I sometimes forget to look outside of my regular reads for things I know I would like but just get moved down the shopping list.

If I had any regrets about Demo, it's that I had waited so long to read it. In a peachy, fat, collected form, it's now one of my favorite new additions to my graphic novel library. Written by Brian Wood, I'm not that sure how to describe it outside of "wonderful." It's basically a collection of what I can only assume are random stories centered around young adults. They start out normal enough, stories about exclusion, emotional strife, teen angsty things, and then out of nowhere each takes a turn for the supernatural. It's often shocking, sometimes downright violent, and in a few instances even banal, yet fascinating.

The thing that gets you (or at least really gets me) is just when you finish one powerful chapter that has inexplicably sucked you into a profound attachment to the characters, the next chapter starts totally anew. And then it happens again. And again. I was furiously eating through the book with a yearning to see these characters lives continued only to be beset with all new characters and then want to see their story continued too! Masterfully Wood has crafted each chapter (or issue, as it were) with this unsettling, but energizing effect, I can honestly say I've not read a comic like it.

Adding to the feeling is some fantastic black and white art by Becky Cloonan, a modernist comiker artist with a bent for manga who absolutely need not be defined by that genre. The art is handled exceptionally well, and compounding Wood's need to jump from story to story, Cloonan's art changes in style to suit it, sometimes radically from one story to the next.

There is a pullquote for Demo that goes something like "This is what X-Men would be like if it were written today," and at first I thought that was a really strange thing to say. After reading the book I understand it better, but to get that you really need to take yourself outside of what mainstream comics are today and imagine what X-men was representing when it originally debuted. The stories in Demo are in a lot of ways timeless, but have elements cemented in what society expects of young people. Additionally the stories are windows into the anxieties and power fantasies we are all tortured by at some point in our lives.

Demo is published by AiT/PlanetLar, which frankly has a hell of a library under its belt for being an "indie publisher." These guys like good comics, and Demo sure as hell is one of the best.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

OMG blkspdy iso Emo

Spider-Man 3... There is no doubt that this is really two movies– possibly three– crammed into one. More apparent in this latest Spidey Franchise Extender is a marketing influence, one I suspect was put in place to market as many new characters as possible, because the movie is packed to the point of overflow. Even taking this into consideration, I'm surprised at how well everything turned out.

Comparisons to the other two movies are inevitable. I really enjoyed the first but it was the second that knocked my socks off. Here in the third film there is so much going on that it never could really match the emotional impact of action vs. consequences that the second had but it sure as hell tries. It's hard not to like 3 but as a whole it's massively overweight and convoluted.

Had the story concentrated on any one of the three antagonists, it would have been a stunning movie. I personally would have liked the movie to focus on Sandman, because his role and his story showed the most potential of the main triad. Keeping the undercurrent of the Harry Osborn dilemma as a subplot would have been fine, since it worked out so well in 2, and would have made for a hell of a twist if the introduction of "New Goblin" was saved for the climax rather than the opening.

As for Venom, well, the disappointment starts the moment the symbiote is introduced. Very cheap. There is such a rich underfiction in regards to the Black Costume I feel as a fan I was cheated. As a moviegoer it's more of a throw-everything-into-the-pan type of feeling, but its hard to ignore how much depth is behind the Black Costume and how Venom's creation/introduction could have been the focal point. The all-too-brief scenes with the actual big, toothy blackness that is Venom left me wanting more, and a realization that a full-on Spidey-vs-Venom with the power of the Sony production machine behind it is something that I'd -really- like to see. Instead I feel a bit short changed. Even the character of Eddie Brock is played so well by Topher Grace you can totally see how that's a movie in itself. (strangely "Venom" is never mentioned by name.)

That's the dilemma here, there's alot of good stuff and I just kept thinking, "wow, that was great, there should be way more of that!" But things kept jumping around so that each small sparkle of greatness never got a chance to cement.

The action sequences in 3 are wildly wrought out, but unfortunately there's just so much happening they come across as filler. It's odd, since 2 is not that far removed but I had much more sense of "things are really kicking into high gear now" rather than 3's "insert action sequence here." The main standout in 3 is not the action, but how the rest of the surrounding film is so damn... weird. There's no other way to describe it. It's so weird! There is all kinds of bizarre time compression editing that was somewhat confusing-- you can totally tell there is alot of material somewhere that never made it in. It peaks with a montage of symbiote-influenced Peter Parker, in all his Emo-nality and pseudo suaveness. It's alot of fun to watch, and with a bizarre boiling point set in a jazz club, again you're taken into the territory of a completely different film.

Then it's more girl trouble, friend trouble, fighting... and then Sandman shows up and has just some awesome screen time, with more impact as distraught criminal Flint Marko than sandy FX generator, once again I'm left wondering what movie I'm watching.

So yeah, it makes sense to me that any review I could write of the film would be as all over the place as the film itself. Did I like it? Sure. But I have a very powerful tool in my corner: I can take what I have seen and imagine what could have been, and be okay with that. I appreciate what the movie did, but it's my mind's eye that holds the true vision of what it tried to be, because I have a strong attachment to the material and characters. Maybe I envision alot of things differently, but shy of me running the show, well, you know the rest. But I will say one definite thing about Spider-Man 3: Gwen Stacey is positively dreamy!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

New Comics Day

oh, lookie here, comics!

Countdown
Green Lantern Corps
Y The Last Man
New X-Men
Spider-Man and Friends

As with 52, I'm giving Countdown a few issues to see if I'll stick around. Worked out rather well for 52, even if I've since given all my issues back to the store (really, how many comics do I need to hang on to?). Countdown... eh... not sure how I feel about it other than to wonder if I'm just sucked in to a weekly book.

I can't even remember the last time I picked up an issue of X-Men. This one is of note because of the fantastic art stylings of Skottie Young. Quite a stretch for marvel to put such a stylistic approach on the book, tho "New" X-Men tends to step out on the branch a bit more. Coupled with Bachalo's rather lengthy stint over on Uncanny, not a bad coupling.

Monday, May 07, 2007

London Burlesque


If you're inclined to hop the pond this weekend, maybe check out Chaz Royal's London Burlesque Festival. Can't make it myself, but damn I'd love to get my hands on one of those posters.

Via Sugarbank (NSFW)


*Does the phrase "hop the pond" apply both ways or is it only a one way UK-to-US thing?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Kool-Awesome


I found this over at John K's Blog a while ago, but I just can't stop looking at it. How freakin' cool is this? What I wouldn't give to have one of these packets in my kool-aid packet collection. They may be from a design era long gone and hard to come by, tho something tells me this stuff is on a shelf somewhere in Mexico, like, right now.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

New Comics Day

Making the best of the situation before I finally go insane...

52
Showcase: War That Time Forgot
Green Lantern
Shazam: MSOE
Midnighter
Danger Girl
Strangers in Paradise

It was impossible to pass up the latest DC Showcase: The War That Time Forgot. Packed with 60's era tales of armed forces battling against all manner of dinos, beasties, and sea creatures. Oh, man is it awesome.

52 comes to a close! Overall the series was alot better than I thought it would be, as it indeed kept my attention for its entire run. The most interesting thing to come of it all (to me) was the designation of "Earth 50" to the WildStorm universe.

The pen-pen-ultimate issue of Strangers in Paradise... It has been an incredibly long and fruitful run and the reality is sinking in that it will soon be over. God bless the next creator who tackles such a storytelling endeavor, I will keep out an eager eye. Can such a replacement even be found? Please don't say we'll never find a way, and tell me all my love is in vain.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Brick Testament


Combining two of my favorite things– Lego and mythology– The Brick Testament doles out a heaping helping of Bible lore with a keen eye for visual storytelling by way of plastic, yellow men.

The Old Testament is a hoot, one of my fave sections is The Book of Joshua with The Massacre at Jericho. Tho the whole of the site is fascinating. No mere gimmick, the creator of the site has clearly put a huge amount of effort into the set-pieces and quotes the Bible verbatum, graphically displaying the sex and violence infused into the some of the world's oldest parables to cleverly juxtapose the medium. Is it tounge-in-cheek ridicule? Is it legitimate evangelism? You may judge for yourself, keeping in mind that ye, too, shall be judged!