Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Apocalipstix

The Apocalipstix from Oni is a great little book. It can be boiled down to Josie and the Pussycats by way of Mad Max: a three babe band survives doomsday and just keeps on rockin'. Writer Ray Fawkes constructs the stories as short chapters, avoiding any complicated setups in favor of hopping right into the action. It's a fallout world send-up with road warriors, giant atomic ants, and electric guitars. It's not taken seriously and that's most of the appeal because the stories spotlight on fun.

I say "most" of the appeal because the treat here is art by Cameron Stewart. It's a bold, thick-lined style with tons of character. It's hard not to flip through the book multiple times to enjoy his renderings of Mandy, Dot, and Megumi amidst the post-apocalyptic mess their world has become. The end of the book promotes volume 2, and it's definitely something to look forward to!

I'm a Cam Stewart follower for sure, and he has a new art book out, Cameron Stewartwork from the utmostly awesome Brand Studio Press. It's a wonderful full-color collection of his art studies and of course dozens of beautifully rendered women. You can get the book direct from Brand Studio or Stuart Ng Books.

The Apocalipstix Official Site

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

No Comics Day?

Yeah, a big fat goose-egg this week. I've got some more book reviews coming tho.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fantastic Four: The End

"The End" mini-series of Marvel books take a look at a protracted final adventure of a hero or group. Not to be confused with "The Last [Marvel Character] Story," tho. They can never really be canon, since the Marvel licenses themselves are eternal and will evolve over time as the company sees fit. But these stories do allow favored creators to give it their all for a fictional extrapolation of what may be.

With Fantastic Four's "End," I can't imagine anyone doing a better job than Alan Davis. And he is in good company, as the aforementioned The Last Fantastic Four Story was drawn by Romita Jr. and written by Stan Lee himself. But Davis both writes and draws his End tale, and it is because of his focused vision that the outcome is so great.

The book reads wonderfully as a collected trade, replete with science fiction surrounding a bevy of Marvel's best characters. Davis has been writing as long as he's been drawing, and it's hard to choose which to favor. He especially excels with established characters in slightly of kilter realities. That was the foundation of what made his Excalibur issue so great, and helped deliver the awesome Nail books for DC. ClanDestine can be considered Davis' own in many ways but it's still with characters like the Fantastic Four and their supporting cast that something really special comes into play.

FF's End jumps ahead years into an almost utopian future, the the Fantastic Four themselves have gone on to lead separate lives. Ben Grim lives a happy family life with Alicia and their children among the Inhumans, Johnny Storm is a member of the Avengers. Reed and Sue are estranged since the group parted, resulting from a tragic last battle with Doctor Doom whose casualties included the Richards' children. Reed, consumed with work, chooses denial to deal with his pain while Sue searches for newer adventures to stave off the grief. The Marvel U is now a galactic one, and of course something's afoot that steadily builds to bring the heroes back together for that final resolution and ever-needed closure.

And it's all in Davis' unmistakable polished style. Kids, this is what great comics look like. Aside from some of the best representations of Marvel characters your likely to see, there are fantastic futuristic settings and worlds with characters who have aged both gracefully and heroically. Pages are packed with armadas of spaceships, high tech labs, operatic settings, and fist throwing, ray-blasting heroes and bad guys. The whole book is gorgeous, with the resplendently paired inks of Mark farmer and great colors of John Kalisz. I'll also mention lettering veteran Dave Lanphear not because I have to, but because his tight and non-intrusive balloons in a dialog heavy story really brings it home as a finished package.

Having no ties to continuity, it reads great if you're not a die-hard Marvel reader. It just plain good sci-fi that happens to be in the Marvel setting. As a reader myself, it reminds of the best that Marvel was when it meant the most to me, it calls to that era that seems so long gone in comparison to todays books.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

No Comics Day

No floppies for me this week. :-(

So instead I bought Batgirl.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hitman Two this is Hitman Two Actual


Oh how I am loving Generation Kill. Ed Burns + HBO = good television.

Set during the initial push into Iraq by US forces, the show follows a group of Recon Marines in the middle of one of our country's greatest clusterfucks. You know, I think the military first coined the word "clusterfuck," but... This is one of those portrayals of the Iraq situation where you watch and hope to god that things really weren't (aren't) like that. But in the back of your head you kind of know the truth is closer than the fiction, and that's a bit numbing. I really, really hope things were (are) not like that. Not that I know any better than the other guy about how often soldiers to break into song to pass the endless hours of desert driving, which is something we can more easily relate to than the level of ineptitude suggested in some instances of top level command. We as citizens have to place a large amount of blind faith in the armed forces, tho I can see how ignorance remains bliss.

There is also some really cool Alpha Bravo military combat stuff which I have to say is awesome. The story shows combat from a couple different angles. There is the intense, first-person perspective as the unit engages as the mission unfolds. Cool shots of ATVs cruising in unison with gun's-a-blazing, wicked night-vision combat with tracers. Then there is the passive combat that happens perpetually around, well, everything. Explosions, nightime drumbeats of distant bombings, and tank divisions rolling by during downtime. Sometimes military life certainly seems to be its own, alien world.

Now what scares me about the show is this: none of the main characters have died in battle. Yet. By this point of the show we are really getting to know these Marines and I have to say I'm getting kind of attached. The Iraq War is merely the framework of this character-driven drama. But the reality is Marines or not, this is a war and in a war... soldiers die. Compounded by the fact that the Marines are based on actual soldiers I can only be wary of heartbreak ahead. Fictional attributations aside, these are men who have served or are still serving in Iraq and abroad. They are sons, brothers, and friends, it is a great tragedy to have one of those lives lost. The hook of Generation Kill partly revolves around a reporter embedded in the Marine unit (who them wrote a book about it, that the show is based on). Most of the story is relayed through him to us-- and obviously he got to know these Marines over time as we are while watching now. Having not read the book I don't know the ultimate fate of the unit's members, but like I said, this is war. And HBO always brings down the hammer.

Evan Wright, the reporter, was right there in the desert. But I am detached, very far away, and it is hard to not care. But then that's the whole point of it all, right?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pineapple Express

In the midst of all the blockbuster insanity, Pineapple Express is a nutty comic desert on the tail end of an incredible summer of movies.

There's not much to say, tho if you enjoy the Apatow brand of humor filtered through Seth Rogan's, um, "Seth Roganness," you'll likely enjoy this flick. There's also action on par with your star-fueled buddy cop movie. So much so that I can't tell if Pineapple Express is a comedy wrapped in an action movie or an action movie wrapped in a comedy. That may not make alot of sense, but the movie really doesn't either. That's why it's fun, you're just along for the ride. And by the end you'll probably want a joint or a bong hit, that is if you weren't already lit on the way in.

I really have to commend the film's mindbogglingly strong pro-marijuana adgenda, it's mildly surprising such a film could be made and offered in such wide release. Add on a strong box office showing and its a wonder how any anti-pot crusaders could still be taken seriously. Obviously Pineapple Express is a caricature, but outside of itself it goes a bit towards highlighting what a ridiculous waste of resources are focused on busting up such a harmless pastime. I doubt it has any political leanings as such, at the end of the day Pineapple Express is a harmless (and very funny) pastime of its own.*

*See also: Weeds, which continues to be one of the best shows on television.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Comics Day

... a day where I actually buy new comics!

Secret Invasion
Fantastic Four
Green Lantern Corps
Wonder Woman
Young Liars

Green Lantern Corps continues to be cool, despite the loss of Patrick Gleason on art this issue. The story features lots of eyeballs, and I wonder if it alludes to anything related to the Emerald Eye? Those were some of my favorite Legion stories so it'd be cool to have it show up here. Just a guess, tho. Also Mongul makes a breif cameo/epilogue from his Black Mercy demise, which I didn't expect so soon. He was awfully entwined with plant stuff... maybe that'll mean something later?

On Wonder Woman: Good Lopresti art is good.

Fantastic Four, why am I still buying this? I thought I was waiting for the trade! Dammit!

Meanwhile, during the Secret Invasion: Reed Richards at the brink, did he just do what I think he did??? Oh, no, wait, he didn't. Darn, that would have been something. It's not until the end of the issue that we get back to all that hooha in the Savage Land, which is good because that leave the majority of the book dealing with actual interesting stuff. But it seems there's a twist or two left in the book, and a angry condemnation. Can the Marvel U walk down the path of genocide? U-decide!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wanted

Ug. Wanted is one of those movies that makes you want your money back in return for the time you had to spend sitting through it.

Thing is, I put off seeing it, then I kept hearing how cool it was so I thought I'd check it out. I heard it compared to Fight Club and The Matrix. Hell, no. It is not remotely close to the clever, de-saturated nihilism of Fight Club and leagues behind what made The Matrix the stylized, FX revolution of its time. As a film it can't even be casually grouped into the visually "cool" as far as I'm concerned, I don't think there was one memorable sequence that stands out as unique or inspired. By the end of the movie things devolve into the absurd and any hope of buying into its fantasy universe is long gone. Perhaps viewers who hail Wanted as something enjoyable just haven't seen enough good movies.

Originally all I knew of Wanted was its comic book origins, but as far as I can tell the only thing the movie has in connection to the comics are a few of the names of the main characters. I had thought even the base premise of the comic would bee good fodder for a summer movie, but sorry, no. It's like the produces actually went out of their way to take out the most interesting concepts of the comic and throw together their idea of a "high octane action film," thinking one or two visual gimmicks could see them through. And I hate to break it to you, but mid-air bullet-on-bullet action played it self out in the early 90's via Hong Kong gangster cinema. I'm trying to recall the first time I saw opposing trajectory bullets collide... Was it Gun and Rose? Well it was cool then, and it could no doubt be cool again but Wanted was not able to join the ranks of cinematic gun fu.

Brought into the ring of all that's been offered this summer, Wanted does not play.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

I DID catch Hellboy 2 when it opened and enjoyed it alot. It went in some different directions than the comic mega movies that surrounded it, but that's what made it refreshing. The Hellboy movies in my opinion are only loosely based on the comics, pulling the core concepts and characters into the theatrical realm. But how that's done is something we rarely get to see.

Guillermo Del Toro is a cinematic visionary-- but I don't say that in the way of some overused adulation. I mean it literally, where here is a man who has a specific vision for what he wants to put on film and executes it beautifully. By doing so he begins to create his own version of the Hellboy mythos, not that what Mignola has done in book form could ever really be replicated in another medium. There are so many great things to watch on screen, and it comes in a steady stream of the bizarre and fantastic. And what's so great about it all is that it filled me with the thoughts of all the great fantasy movies they don't seem to make anymore. Labyrinth, Legend, Dark Crystal, Hawk the Slayer, Willow, Neverending Story, Baron Munchausen, Time Bandits (all from the 80's coincidentally, I bet there's some sort of socio-economic connection there). Hellboy 2 is packed solid, with virtually no wasted space. The shots are wide and long when they should be, then close and personal to bring it home. Everything from the costumes to the creatures to the sets is pure eye candy.

Prior to this Del Toro brought us Pan's Labyrinth, which is also an amazing looking film, but it's matched there by dread and bleakness. Hellboy 2 is fun and lively wrapped around moments of thought and pathos, and at times sheer wackiness. Yea... I probably could have done without the Barry Manilow, but in the end that is just part of the oddity of it all. The story behind resurrecting the Golden Army is solid and awesome to watch come to fruition. The action sequences are balls-out, something I wasn't expecting at all. The last fight scene between Prince Nuada and Hellboy is amazing to watch, I hadn't felt that sense of unexpected, wide-eyed awe of a duel probably since Darth Maul's showdown in Phantom menace.

The cast brings the characters alive, clearly much more at ease in their roles since the first film. As Hellboy, Pearlman keeps his wit and aplomb balanced keenly with an outsider's self consciousness and need to be accepted. I was also happy to see much more of Abe Sapien, well 'cause he's just awesome. Doug Jones even wins his own voice back this time around. Selma Blair is always someone I like to see show up, tho her character Liz definitely seemed to be short changed, waffling between shrill crow and all-around second banana. The biggest treat for me was Luke Goss' Prince Nuada, who's character I just wanted more and more of. Tho the title says otherwise, I say he was the real star of the movie.

Hellboy 2 is way better than the first in all these respects, both in story and how we see it told. I hope its success is an opening for more great fantasy movies to come.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Also, Watchmen


Phonepic from Austin Books, which if local info is to believed has Austin's only current stock of Watchmen. A clerk informed me they've started to average about 10 sales a day.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

New Comics Day

Another one comic week.

I have to admit a couple of things.

1. I have no idea what is going on in Final Crisis.

2. Sometimes Grant Morrison is over my head.

I do not know which of the two statements above is hindering the book, but Final Crisis is not doing it for me. We can sit here and discuss Morrison all day long: How he straddles both comics deconstructionism and classic yarn spinning, etc. etc. ect. But this does not belay the fact that Final Crisis is supposed to be a landmark, tentpole book, whereas I am seeing something more in the direction of ala 7 Soldiers or (gasp!) The Invisibles. Applied to DC core characters and Universe doings, that sounds really cool on paper, but I'm lost here. I'm pretty hardcore DC, this should be gravy. I'm just saying I'm not "getting it" as a reader of the actual end product.

On the subject of FC, Final Crisis: Director's Cut also shipped today. Which is bullshit. I like seeing black and white art and original scripts as much as the next ardent comics reader, but don't go packaging it as a special "Director's Cut." A director's cut implies something that is re-presented with the auteur's original creative vision-- which if any recent interviews with Morrison shed light on the issue, this Final Crisis "Director's Cut" is decidedly not.