Archive for January, 2011

A Whale of a Tale

Unwritten #21

Tom Taylor is trapped inside “Moby-Dick,” Herman Melville’s novel, and he has no idea how to get out. And Captain Ahab is a dead ringer for his father, Wilson Taylor. When Tom calls “Ahab” his father, he’s assumed to be temporarily deranged and thrown belowdecks. Tom tries to escape using his magic crystal doorknob, but he’s told by the suddenly appearing Frankenstein’s Monster that he can only break out of the novel at its points of equilibrium — either the very beginning or the very end. Meanwhile, back in the real world, Lizzie and Savoy have been kidnapped by the magical puppeteer, who intends to make them tell her all they know about Wilson’s plans.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Loved everything set in the novel, and it was nice to see the puppeteer’s true abilities — though not particularly nice from Lizzie and Savoy’s point of view…

Batman and Robin #19

Dick and Damian blunder into another trap set by Una Nemo, Bruce Wayne’s ex-girlfriend turned hole-headed supervillain. She quickly sets them up in a deathtrap with a couple of power drills aimed at their foreheads. Can they get out of the brain-scrambling trap in time? No way…

Verdict: Thumbs down. Sorry, but it bored me. Too much deathtrap and not a smidgen of suspense.

Secret Six #29

Bah! It’s the second half of a crossover with Action Comics, so half the story is already missing. Lex Luthor hired the Six to help him get rid of immortal caveman Vandal Savage — father of Six member Scandal Savage. They’re all inside one of Luthor’s skyscrapers, and there are bombs involved and a lot of shooting and general nonsense.

Verdict: Thumbs down. The Six were reduced to guest-stars in their own comic — nearly all the focus was on Luthor and Vandal Savage. Not even Ragdoll acting deranged could save this one.

Today’s Cool Links:

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The Power of Rock

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

I finally (finally) (FINALLY!) got off my lazy butt and watched this movie. I figure I won’t step on any toes if I review it now.

Basic plot: Scott Pilgrim is a Canadian slacker. He’s dating a high-schooler with the endlessly awesome name of Knives Chau! Until he meets the love of his life, Ramona Flowers. Standard angsty romance stuff. At least until Ramona’s evil exes start coming out of the woodwork to engage in video-game-inspired duels to the death with our hapless Canadian bass player. Can Scott defeat all seven of the exes? Can he win Ramona’s love? Can he master the Power of Love and the Power of Self-Respect?

Verdict: A great big fat thumbs-up. I’m really sorry I didn’t see this when it was in the theaters, ’cause that woulda been awesome.

Probably the only thing I didn’t like about this movie was that it wasn’t as insanely epic as the trailers made it out to be. But that’s a problem of my own expectations, not with the movie itself, which is a great big bucket of fun.

Of course, no movie is for everyone. Some people don’t like Michael Cera, ’cause he’s generally played the predictably dorky guy with a shaggy hairdo, but that works out pretty well in this one, ’cause Scott Pilgrim is supposed to be a dorky guy with a shaggy hairdo. If you’re not going to like movies that traffic heavily in video game jokes — like defeated enemies who turn into coins or being able to grab an extra life or power-up weapon from time to time — this may not be the movie for you. If you don’t like movies with over-the-top cartoon violence and stunts, there’s something wrong with you, but you probably won’t like this. If you don’t like movies with comic-book elements, like outlandish written sound effects or superpowers — well, I don’t know why you’re reading this blog, but this movie may not be for you either, you poor soul.

If all of that sounds awesome, then you’re probably going to enjoy this movie.

I can’t compare it to the comics — I haven’t finished reading all of them yet. I can tell you that there are some pretty big changes from the comic to the movie. Some elements are eliminated, some characters are combined or mixed together, but these don’t do too much damage to the final product. Lots of other reviewers have noted that Ramona’s story in the comic is a lot more important — there’s a complete storyarc for her, and she’s more than just The Girl Scott Pilgrim Loves — that’s probably a legitimate criticism, though I’m not sure how they would’ve squeezed more story into a feature-length movie already filled with a whole lot of plot.

I can tell you some of my very favorite bits. Every single bit of the fight with Matthew Patel is brilliant — it’s definitely the best fight in the movie, and it’s too bad they couldn’t re-create some of that mad energy for some of the other battles. I loved the animated sequences designed to look like Bryan Lee O’Malley’s artwork in the comics. I loved the Bass Battle, I loved “Ninja Ninja Revolution,” I loved all the hilarious background jokes. I even loved the way the Universal Studios theme was played as an 8-bit video game theme. And I loved the fact that Edgar Wright, director of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” is now three-for-three when it comes to awesome movies.

And the characters really are excellent. Kieran Culkin as Wallace Wells, Alison Pill as Kim Pine, Mark Webber as Stephen Stills, Johnny Simmons as Young Neil, Brie Larson as Envy Adams, Chris Evans as Lucas Lee, Brandon Routh as Todd Ingram, Mae Whitman as Roxy Richter, and especially Ellen Wong as Knives Chau. Wong completely owns every scene she appears in, and I’m glad they expanded Knives’ role in the movie, just so we can see more of Ellen Wong acting awesome.

If you haven’t seen it yet, then you should definitely give it a watch. I loved the stuffin’ out of it.

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Monster City

iZombie #9

Not really a cool-down issue — more a things-are-starting-to-slowly-heat-up-again issue. Gwen is out on a date mini-golfing with Horatio, which his monster-hunting partner Diogenes is being stalked by vampires. Scott the were-terrier is worried that one of his friends may find out even more of his secrets. And Galatea is up to something fiendish.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Still good fun. Great relationship work and characterization. And as always, beautiful artwork and dialogue.

Morning Glories #5

The first storyarc wraps up — Ike has betrayed everyone, Hunter buys everyone a little more time with a well-timed fire, and Zoe and Casey are on the run. Zoe gets lost, meets one of the Academy’s supernatural assassins, and gets covered in blood (luckily, not her own). And then the girls get captured again. But somehow, to the Academy instructors’ confusion, Jade is rescued by persons unknown. All that, plus we get to meet another of the psychotic teachers they keep on staff.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Most of the loose ends tied up, with a few left to worry about in the future and a few more new threads to keep an eye on. I’d still love to know what the heck is going on at the Academy, but I wasn’t under illusion that everything would be explained so quickly.

Today’s Cool Links:

I got nothing. I’ve seen no funny or amusing links since the mass shooting in Arizona. And the relevant links I’ve seen since then would probably piss some of y’all off pretty hard, so I ain’t gonna post ’em. But I’ll say something’s gone bad wrong with this country. I don’t really care how crazy this nut was — when your political discourse is dominated by veiled threats of violence, something bad is gonna happen eventually. Don’t like it when people tie the teapartiers to this attack? Too bad. Maybe you should less time waving guns around at town hall meetings.

And no, both sides aren’t just as bad — some random commenter on a blog isn’t equivalent to a former governor, former vice presidential candidate, TV news star/commenter, author, and possible future presidential candidate. It says something pretty unpleasant about her character that her first reaction to this tragedy was to try to hide her infamous crosshairs map, the second was to make a really half-assed apology, and the third was to pretend that the crosshairs were surveyor’s symbols. And it says something much worse about some Congressional leaders and pundits when they get angry because the county sheriff says there’s too much violent political rhetoric.

I’ve said a lot more than I was planning to about this, so I’ma shut up now.

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Friday Night Fights: Triple the Pain!

Well, it’s a new year, and it’s time for the first Friday Night Fights of 2011. Let’s jump straight in, oy?

This is from May 2007’s Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #11 by Jeff Parker, Juan Santacruz, and Raul Fernandez. The Serpent Society has engineered some snakes with mind-control venom, and one of them has just bitten Wolverine. His healing factor should take care of the venom before Captain America, Storm, and Spider-Man have to knock him around, right? Right?

Not a bad way to start the year — but let’s keep our fingers crossed for better stuff on the way.

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Elephant Graveyard

Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London #4

Edward Hyde, the good half of serial killer H.H. Holmes — well, he might not be the good half after all. In fact, there may be no good half of him, because the minute he’s alone with Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, he goes straight-up psycho on him. Can Billy and the rest of the freak posse catch up to him before he makes his escape? And in the backup story, the Goon and Franky are up against a gang of feral hobos, the King Hobo, and Dr. Metaphoric Name. Can they survive the terrifying onslaught?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Some unexpected twists to the story and altogether a good ending, along with a nice lead-in for the next series. The Goon story is, as always, funny, crude, and awesome.

Hellboy: The Sleeping and the Dead #1

Hellboy is hunting a vampire, when some old guy shoots him to rescue the bloodsucker. When Hellboy gets back to his feet, he tracks the vamp’s blood trail back to an old mansion, where the old gunman tells how an vampire once decimated his family, turning him into a slave, turning one of his sisters into a vampire (the one, in fact, that Hellboy just destroyed), and doing something even more unspeakable to his youngest sister. And when Hellboy gets dropped into the spooky basement, something nasty is going to be coming after him.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice and creepy, just like I like my Hellboy stories.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Master of Puppets

Zatanna #8

Zatanna confesses to her therapist that she’s had a nearly lifelong fear of… puppets? And this isn’t just some comedic phobia either — she doesn’t remember how the fear started, but for any professional magician working in the live entertainment business, there are puppeteers everywhere. And the ones that bug her the most are the Merry-O-Nettes, the puppets owned by an old vaudevillian named Oscar Hempell. Why do those puppets frighten her so? Is there a way she can get at the truth? And will learning the truth be worse than not knowing?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This was a really enjoyable comic book. There’s some great material with Zatanna’s backstory, some excellently chilling stuff, and, if you’ve got any kind of fear about puppets yourself, the kind of stuff that’s going to give you a serious complex. And Cliff Chiang‘s artwork is, as ever, amazingly beautiful and fun. Any doubts I’ve had about this series are definitely finished — this is a wonderfully fun comic.

Tiny Titans #35

Talon reveals to Robin that he’s actually the sidekick of Owlman, a superhero just like Batman from a parallel universe. Robin doesn’t believe him, despite all their many similarities, so Raven creates a portal to Talon’s world, which promptly leads to a mini-invasion of alternate-universe Titans. But are these evil Titans? Or do they just have funny-colored costumes? And how badly is Talon going to mess things up before it’s all over?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Pretty cool issue, with a lot of clever comedy bits.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Holy cow, Vertigo is finally going to publish Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s famously-trippy “Flex Mentallo” series!
  • David Brothers has another of his great posts on race in comics.
  • Here are some of the highlights of the classic D&D “Tomb of Horrors” module, as enacted by a bunch of cartoon animals.

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Blood for the Blood God

I’m at least two weeks behind on all my comics reviewin’, so let’s try to get as many done as we can over the next few days.

American Vampire #10

Everyone remember Hattie Hargrove? Pearl Jones former friend who sold her out for a shot at vampirism and stardom only to get killed by Pearl? Turns out she’s not dead — she’s being held prisoner by another vampire so he can try to figure out how to kill her and the other American vampires. Meanwhile, Pearl and her beau Henry are living in Arrowhead, California, where Pearl is worried that she’s going to vastly outlive her lover. There’s also a chance for them to get out and enjoy themselves at a new jazz club where Henry gets to sit in and play guitar in a set. But of course, those happy times can’t last forever, can they?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of things to like here — the return of Hattie, the intense weirdness of the relationship between Pearl and Henry, from Pearl’s immortality to her tendency to feed on him during lovemaking, the great sequences in the jazz club, all the way up to that awesome last page. For once, Skinner Sweet doesn’t appear at all, and we don’t even miss him much.

Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine #4

We finally get a proper introduction to a couple of our villains here — the Czar and Big Murder, a couple of hoods with a diamond-studded time-travel bat. Meanwhile, Spidey and Wolvie have been dropped into different parts of each other’s origins — Wolverine has to masquerade as a wrestler hanging out with teenaged great-power-and-no-responsibility Peter Parker, and Spider-Man is stuck covered in meat and throwing down against a young James Howlett, mostly feral and mostly not knowing how to stop killing people. Both of ’em get ambushed and knocked around by Czar and Big Murder, and they end up getting burned at the stake in medieval times. So who’s the ultimate mastermind in this whole thing?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Really nice character work getting done in this one, particularly in the Wolverine-meets-selfish-Petey-Parker section. But the entire thing is great fun.

Batman Inc. #2

After Batman saves Catwoman and Jiro Osamu’s girlfriend from the giant octopus in the downstairs apartment, Jiro’s girlfriend dumps him because he was working for the late Mr. Unknown and thus putting her in danger. Jiro reveals to Batman and Catwoman that Mr. unknown was 56 years old and had spent the last few years as the detective behind the scenes while Jiro did all the physical work. He wants to help Batman go after Lord Death Man, but Bats is angry ’cause Jiro used a gun to attack the villain. Meanwhile, Lord Death Man resurrects in the hospital and goes after Shiny Happy Aquazon of Tokyo’s Super Young Team. Can Batman and Jiro save Aquazon and defeat Lord Death Man?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good story, wonderful art, and a nice beginning for this series.

Detective Comics #872

Dick Grayson is on the trail of William Rhodes, a former Gotham businessman who’s now wanted by the police for his involvement with “Mirror House,” an organization that auctions off illegal memorabilia from Gotham City supervillains. But when Rhodes gets killed in an accident, Dick decides to disguise himself and investigate the Mirror House in person. He finds a building full of wealthy, gas-masked, evil-worshiping psychos. Is there a way for Dick to get out alive, especially when the auctioneer realizes he’s got an uninvited guest?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nicely devious plot with a really nasty twist. The dialogue between Dick and Babs Gordon is also excellent.

Green Lantern #61

Atrocitus is on the trail of the Butcher, the rage entity looking for a new host on Earth. It finds one in the person of James Kim, a father who wants revenge for his murdered daughter, but the Spectre intervenes because he thinks he should hold the monopoly on enraged vengeance. Atrocitus is able to capture the Butcher, but not before it possesses James Kim and executes the criminal. Now the Spectre wants James Kim dead, too. Can one rage-fueled monster talk another rage-fueled monster into not passing judgment?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice spotlight issue for Atrocitus, and it’s also nice to see anyone, even a villain like the Red Lantern, confront the Spectre about the moral bankruptcy of his “holy” quest.

Today’s Cool Links:

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