Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Retro Review #6 : Invincible Trade Vol. 4

Here's a quick Retro Review that I had forgotten to publish to hold you over until I get back on track :-)
Invincible Volume 4 : Head of the Class (2004)

Story by Robert Kirkman
Art by Ryan Ottley

For the longest time now, people have been telling me that I have to read this book. “You’ll love it”, they would say “It’s about a teenager who gets superpowers and has to deal with being a hero and having a normal life.” Riiiight, because I’ve never read such a story before.

So my neighbor lent me his hardcover collection of the first 13 issues (thanks Archie!) so I could see what all the fuss was about. I read through the entire 13 issues in a single evening because I could not bring myself to put this book down. I had been missing out.

If you have never read this title, stop reading this and go out and get it now…go ahead, I’ll wait for you to get back.

The story starts in familiar territory: a superhero named Omni-Man has a child who develops superpowers in his teen years and the kid decides to become a superhero named Invincible. What makes Invincible so different is that the books are bright and fun. Robert Kirkman does a wonderful job of rewarding longtime readers with surprises and hidden treasures. For example : In the first few issues, Mark the main character, realizes his powers have kicked in when he is taking out a bag of garbage at Burger Mart. As he throws the bag up into the dumpster, he inadvertently launches the bag into the stratosphere with his new super-strength. Much later in the collection (about 6-8 issues I think) a man is walking his dog in England when, out of nowhere, something falls out of the sky and lands next to him. He looks down to see a garbage bag with containers from Burger Mart.

Volume 4, which contains issues 13-19 plus a Free Comic Book Day short story, picks up after the devastating events that ended Volume 3. Our young hero has to deal with the repercussions of those events, along with graduating high school, dealing with a girlfriend who is suspicious of where he keeps running off to, and being a part-time member of a teen superhero group. Once again, we get setup for a future joke, at graduation when everyone tosses their caps in the air, Mark’s does not return to the ground.

The art by Ryan Ottley is very well done and refreshing, helping to keep the positive tone of the books. Kirkman excels at overlaying multiple plots and storylines without it feeling too overcrowded. You will definitely find yourself laughing out loud in between the decent drama and intense action sequences.

While most of the bigger companies are publishing dark and gloomy comics, Invincible is a pleasant distraction. By the way, the introduction to Volume 4 by Mark Waid is hilarious.

Me....on TV :-)

Sorry about the lack of new posts lately but I haven't had much time in my schedule and I haven't picked up comics in a few weeks. I plan on heading out to pick up a stack of books today though so look for some reviews by the weekend. In other news, I was on one of our local TV shows this morning for a work thing and here are some screen caps.

The video of the segment will be available on the show's website : in the Past Shows section, which should be updated in the next day or so. It was fun and I get to do it all again on Friday :-)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Holiday Post Preview

As Liz and I wrap up our visit to the northernmost Hannemann household at Christmas, I'm thinking about all of the funny quotes I have in my head. Here is a sneak peek of the Manger / Hannemann Christmas post I'll put up when we get back to Milwaukee this weekend :

Kaelyn (my almost 5 year old niece watching me play Mortal Kombat vs. DCU): Why are they fighting??

Rebekah (my sister-in-law talking to my wife who was discarding a pizza box) : Don't throw the box on the high chair, the baby is in it!

Mark (my father-in-law playing Wii Golf and yelling at the Wii golfer) Hey little man, get back here I'm not ready to swing yet!

Full wrap-up coming later in the weekend, and maybe next week I'll actually go to pick up some comic books and get back to writing some reviews :-)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays

Just wanted to take a minute to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays out there. Be safe and hopefully everyone gets to be with their family and/or friends to enjoy it in your own way. I'll be back with some new posts right around New Years hopefully with some catch-up comic reviews, a movie review or two, and my thoughts on my upcoming experience on local daytime television. For those that don't know I, along with some of my co-workers, will be on TMJ-4's Morning Blend show during wedding week talking about tuxedos and men's formalwear on December 31st and January 2nd. I'm not sure what time because it involves the word "morning" which is not one of my strong suits. I'm going to try and record it so I can post it online for all to see and bask in my local celebrity status :-) LOL.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Movie Review : Batman (1989)

Let me take you back….way back, to the year 1989. The Sega Genesis was the must-have new gaming system, serial killer Ted Bundy is executed in Florida, the Exxon Valdez dumps tons of oil into Prince William Sound, and a young man is waiting in line along with some friends in Upper Darby Pennsylvania to see the much-anticipated Tim Burton film adaptation of his favorite comic book character. Click below for more :

I can remember almost every part of my first viewing of the Batman movie (except exactly who I went with, sorry whoever that was) at the now closed down Barclay Square Twin Cinema. I recall the excitement, the anticipation, the hope that they could do my favorite characters justice on the big screen. Back then, it delivered…BIG time. Does it still deliver today after seeing special effects like those found in Iron Man or Hulk, and does it seem cheesy after the uber-dark The Dark Knight? It’s still a great film, although it does have it’s issues, it remains very enjoyable.

Now I’m actually watching the movie while writing this so my comments may seem oddly chronological. One of the first thoughts that people seem to have about this movie is : “Michael Keaton as Batman, you mean the guy from Mr. Mom?” I thought this as well, but honestly, he pulls it off. He really nails the Bruce Wayne persona of a semi-disinterested playboy, then on the other hand he does one of the better Batman voices. By Batman voice I mean adding that gravely tone to Wayne’s voice so no one will know it’s him. Christian Bale sort of overdid this in The Dark Knight to the point that I was laughing whenever Batman spoke, luckily that movie was more about the Joker, who Heath Ledger pulled off with a surprising level of awesomeness. Yup…awesomeness, look it up.

Speaking of the Clown Prince of Crime, we have Jack Nicholson playing the iconic Joker, Batman’s main nemesis. He does a fantastic job of channeling one of the Joker’s personalities in this movie. I say one of them because Joker has many different personalities from goofy crime lord to frightening psychopath. This performance is definitely more of the Cesar Romero 1960s campy variety than Ledger’s scary-as-hell version, both of which are needed in the canon. The origin story of the Joker’s “birth” sticks close to the origin that I’m familiar with but does tweak a few things, which is to be expected in comic book movies. Nicholson does a good job of being Nicholson (something he excels at) and performs exactly how you would expect as the Joker.

Let’s talk about Gotham City itself. Dark, grey, void of color and sunlight, all of these characteristics are well represented here. Something I’m noticing here for the first time, and maybe it’s because I’m watching my older DVD copy on a new HiDef TV, but the movie looks VERY much like Frank Miller’s Sin City in retrospect. It looks as if the color was removed from the film and added back in, but only in certain places (a woman’s dress, the lettering on an ambulance, someone’s tie). For some reason this is annoying me right now, which is weird because I love Sin City but maybe I’m just not remembering that this was there the whole time and it seems fairly random.

The story functions as most origin comic book movies do, there is a lot of information to get out of the way in a short period of time. The origin of Batman bothers me in this instance. I know there are many versions of the origin but this one feels the need to tie Joker (pre-white skin and grin) to Wayne in the past by making him the murderer of Bruce’s parents. No big deal, I’ll move past it.

The other main performances are Kim Basinger’s Vicki Vale, Robert Wuhl’s Knox, and Michael Gough’s Alfred. Basinger is her usual attractive but dull self, and seems like she was just thrown in to add another big name to the list. I’m not really a fan of hers so this may sound biased to begin with, but we could have had less Vale and more Joker. Robert Wuhl provides the comic relief as a fast talking noir-style reporter hot on Batman’s trail, good stuff. And last but not least, Michael Gough does a wonderful job as the dry witted, father-figure Alfred.

Batman’s various toys in the movie are excellent. The utility belt gadgets are well done and the Batsuit itself is great. One of my favorite Batmobiles appears in this movie, before they got a bit ridiculous with them. The thing looks like a fighter jet without wings. Speaking of wings, I love the Batwing plane. This is without a doubt one of my all-time favorite Bat-toys, although Bruce should have invested in some heavier armor because Joker takes it down with a handgun (I hear this is due to a deleted scene where Joker has a tank hidden beneath one of the floats). The Batcave itself is also well rendered and represented.

One big issue with the movie, and listen closely: YOU CAN NOT KILL THE BIG VILLAINS! I was so disappointed that they had no possibility that the Joker would return in a sequel. Although, they managed to screw up the sequels beyond belief (except for Batman Forever which I sort of enjoyed, mostly thanks to Jim Carrey). They did a great job of keeping the hope for a villain alive in Dark Knight (then through tragic irony that got screwed up), so they learned a lesson there. Arkham Asylum is there for a reason, although it is funny that you would house major psychopathic criminals in a facility that has the security of a small town bed and breakfast, but that’s one of the conceits that you have to accept. Besides some cheesy effects that are obvious now, that’s about my only gripe. Not bad.

So, to recap : Does it still stand up today as a good comic film? Absolutely. Is it better than The Dark Knight or Batman Begins? That’s comparing apples and oranges, because they are different animals. I can’t give a solid answer but I will say it holds up through time. This movie did spawn the atrocities that were Batman Returns and The Evil Whose Title Must Not Be Spoken (*looks around * Batman and Robin) but I can’t hold that against it because Batman did restart the mainstream’s interest in comic book adaptations and paved the way for great movies like Spider-Man, Iron Man and the current Bat-movies.

Now I’m just waiting for Christmas to roll around, I am hoping that there will be some form of BluRay capable device and a copy of Dark Knight hanging out under the tree :-)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Upcoming Updates

Hey anyone reading my blog. First of all...thanks for checking me out. Secondly, the holidays tend to be fairly busy for me personally so I will try my hardest to update things regularly during this season of travelling around. Click below for some of the upcoming posts I have planned :

Retro Movie Review : Batman (1989) - I caught this on HDNet Movies last week and was reminded how enjoyable the film is. It's definitely not without it's issues, but I'll be taking a look at both sides

Show & Tell : Lego Arkham Asylum & Random Batman Action Figures - Sorry that I threw this article out there and never followed up with a second one. Keep an eye out for these updates shortly

Event Review : Final Crisis So Far - I'll be taking a look at what works and what doesn't and what has me giddy like a schoolgirl about DC's big 2008 (and apparently 2009) event

Comic Book Cover Artist Discussion - I'll be putting in my 2 cents about whether interior artists should be expected to do their own covers, and how variant covers should be handled

So once again, thanks for checking out the blog, please don't forget to join the Followers list and feel free to comment on anything, I enjoy the discussion with interested individuals (my wife just humors me).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Looking Forward to Wednesday (12-17-2008)

This will be an extremely light week for me. Only 3 books planned so I’ll probably pick up a trade or action figure to fill up my weekly comic book allowance  Reviews may not be up until next week since we need to finish up Christmas shopping and I may not get to the shop this week. Check back on Thursday though, I’ll pop some reviews up if I can. Click below for the books :

Marvel Comics :


DC Comics :

DCU Holiday Special 2008 : I’m a sucker for the holiday specials so we’ll see how this turns out

Robin 181 : I’m really loving the Robin story lately and now Anarky is back for the final run here. Good stuff.

Supergirl 36 : Surprisingly, with the new creative team, this book is still holding my interest. New Krypton continues…..

Other Publishers :


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Comic Reviews - 12/10/2008

A bit up and down this week. Final Crisis & Secret Six : awesome, Green Lantern Corps and Final Crisis Revelations : not bad, and Detective Comics and Action Comics : disappointing. Click below to get the reviews

Final Crisis #5

Wow….that was how I felt, just wow. My friend Shawn called me at work after reading…his first word: Wow. So much happened in this book that it will definitely warrant multiple readings. Morrison’s epic Final Crisis picks up pace in a big way as the evil lord Darkseid fully manifests on Earth. I am really digging the way that Darkseid is showing up here. I still hear Michael Ironsides’ voice when I read him, but now it’s Ironsides if he were being crushed in a vice while reciting dialog. I think it was in the Final Crisis Sketchbook that they said Darkseid would be in constant agonizing pain, well the dialog definitely sounds like he is.

There were so many great moments in this book: finding out what the hell Mary Marvel’s problem actually is, Luthor realizing that he made some BIG mistakes, Darkseid offing his minions just because he can, and a Rubiks cube that can possibly help save the world.

Morrison continues to impress me with this title. I know that there are MANY people out there who are becoming disenfranchised with Final Crisis, and I understand that Morrison is not for everyone, but I am loving it and I can’t wait until January when we get the final 2 issues.

Detective Comics #851 (Last Days of Gotham Part 1)

This issue was extremely disappointing to me in many ways. I was very excited for the return of Denny O’Neil to the Batman books and this book bored me. The cover is beautiful, the interior art is OK, but the story is just plain dull. The story is entitled The Last Days of Gotham and we get a story about Nightwing not wanting to drive a Batmobile, and following Two-Face…which is what we had in the Nightwing title recently as well. I don’t know, maybe the next issue will redeem it, but I hyped this up to myself so much and it was a letdown.

Green Lantern Corps #31 (Sins of the Star Sapphire Part 3)

Weird…in a story about the Star Sapphires we get to see very little of the title characters, 2 pages in fact (I’m not kidding). Instead, we get more of Kryb, by far the creepiest of Sinestro’s playmates. The issue moved along well but seemed like it was just waiting for something else to happen. We get guest appearances by the Monitors who vote on the new law : No hot Lantern on Lantern action, Mongul who is chilling at some intergalactic brothel, and a ring construct baby who kicks some serious ass. I’m still enjoying the title, but they need to pick it up just a little.

Secret Six #4

Quickly climbing the ladder of my favorite books, we get another solid issue with great writing by Gail Simone and beautiful art by Nicola Scott. Anyone who knows me well is aware that I am a big fan of villains. Secret Six is about villains at their worst, and most ridiculous. Deadshot plays the voice of reason, Scandal and Catman continue to snipe at one another while Bane plays father figure to Scandal and spouts some of the best lines of the year. My favorite from this book as he’s talking to a VIP Hotel Concierge :

Concierge : Can I ask what you bench press, sir?
Bane : Costumed detectives, mostly.

Randomness from the comic shop :

I had to leave a few books in my box that I’ll review next week (Ambush Bug & Secret Invasion : Dark Reign) and my shop started carrying a new drawer type storage box that I’ll be trying out next week.

The conversation at the shop was video game-centric as Shawn was raving about playing a demo of Mirror’s Edge. The conversation then turned to the fear-inducing Resident Evil series and its scarier moments. Unfortunately I didn’t have a whole lot of time to spend there so the visit was pretty short.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Retro Review #5 : JLA / Avengers

Story by Kurt Busiek
Art by George Perez

Did you ever think what would happen if your favorite heroes from Marvel met your favorite heroes from DC and hung out together? JLA / Avengers is what would happen. This is a surprisingly enjoyable story by Kurt Busiek with incredible art by George Perez and many classic comic book moments. As the book clearly demonstrates, the Marvel and DC Universes are VERY different places. (and by the way...I promise that the next Retro Review will be a non-DC Comics book)

This review is based on the individual 4 issue prestige format miniseries (thanks for the loan, Shawn) so I’m not sure of what, if any, extras are available in the recently released trade paperback version. The story is a classic one : two extraordinarily powerful cosmic entities, namely Krona from the DC side and The Grandmaster from the Marvel side, manipulate these two very different worlds in a grand game. With plenty of twists and turns along the way, including appearances by Metron and Galactus, the story is very fulfilling and well paced.

The art is classic Perez. Every page is filled with beautifully rendered characters from both camps, in some instances you wonder how he fits so much in a panel and it still doesn’t seem overdone. The interaction between the JLA and the Avengers is tumultuous at first, but they both realize that they are all being played. Due to rifts in time and space, we see appearances by some deceased favorites like Hal Jordan and Barry Allen, and some different versions of our favorites like Mullet Superman and quite a few variations of Iron Man’s armor.

The book is literally packed with more grin-inducing fanboy crossover moments than I could cover here, but here are a few of my personal favorites :

- Captain America versus Batman – these two brilliant tacticians spar for a few minutes, judging one another’s weaknesses and strengths. Batman finally halts the fight stating that he knows that Cap can beat him..but it will take a long time. They decide instead to just investigate together.
- Darkseid wearing the Infinity Gauntlet…enough said.
- Plastic Man poking fun at Galactus for his fashion sense
- During a battle scene, Dr. Light yells “Captain Marvel, look out!” as both the “Shazam!” Captain Marvel and the “Mar-Vell” Captain Marvel reply “Thanks!” in unison.

My absolute favorite image from this book is the cover to Issue #4 (pictured above). Superman, looking badly battle-worn, stands defiant against the cosmic threat wielding Cap’s shield in one hand and Thor’s Mjolnir hammer in the other.

There are some great emotional moments as well. After a space / time shift, Hal and Barry realize that they were dead and they catch a glimpse of their replacements, Kyle and Wally, and talk about how proud they are that worthy successors are around to carry on their legacies.

I wish these crossovers would happen more often because, for the readers, they are just plain fun if done right and this one is definitely done right. With A-list talent like Busiek and Perez it’s pretty much a no-brainer. My only disappointment from the book was the Batman versus Punisher fight that happened completely off-panel. I wanted to see this!!!! And, on a side note, Kyle Rayner’s costume in this book is the best design he ever had, why did they go back to the ridiculous faceplate mask??

As I said, I think more companies should bury the hatchet and try more of these crossover books. I’ll be honest, as a longtime DC fan this book got me interested in the Avengers and some other Marvel characters. And I’m not just talking DC and Marvel here, let’s go everyone…..Invincible / Spiderman / Blue Beetle??....Scarlet Witch / Zatanna??...Lobo / Wolverine???...and my personal favorite…Bomb Queen versus Power Girl :-)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Looking Forward to Wednesday (12-10-2008)

Back to regular Wednesdays and a fairly big week for me. Because of things like Christmas shopping and action figures I just HAD to have at Target (Target Exclusive Justice League 6-Figure set with Luthor, Red Hood Joker, Gorilla Grodd, Batman, Superman and Flash), I may have to push some titles back to next week due to budgetary concerns. Click below for the titles I'll be picking up :

Marvel Comics :

Nothing, although I may check out Secret Invasion : Dark Reign. I’m interested in this now after the end of Secret Invasion.

DC Comics :

Action Comics #872 More of New Krypton, in the solicit it says that Superman is trying to free the other cities trapped on Brainiac’s ship, after what happened last time…he may want to think this through a bit.

Ambush Bug : Year None #5 – May have to put this aside until next week with so much coming out. This book has been great so far and we’re heading towards the end, hopefully it can keep up the laughs.

Detective Comics #851 – Beginning of the Denny O’Neill run Last Days of Gotham. I’m all hyped up on RIP so bring it on!

Final Crisis #5 – Remember these? We should be on a pretty quick run to the end now, Dan DiDio still holds fast to the January deadline for this to end. It’s been great so far although I will have to re-read the past issues to keep up due to the gap.

Final Crisis : Revelations #4 – It’s good to see Final Crisis come back in full force now that Secret Invasion is over with. Revelations has been decent so far so I am definitely looking forward to it’s return, although due to finishing up my Christmas shopping this one may be on hold for a week as well.

Green Lantern Corps #31 – Easily one of my favorite books now, GLC is sort of filling in the blanks for the main Green Lantern book. They have been referencing certain events in GL that happen in GLC, so those who are reading GLC get the full story. Great writing by Peter Tomasi and lots of buildup towards Blackest Night

Secret Six #4 – Solid writing, solid art, and one VERY creepy villain (although the whole book is about villains) make this mini series enjoyable. I’m dying to see if they actually show who Junior actually is and I can never get enough Deadshot.

Other Publishers :


Friday, December 5, 2008

Comic Reviews – 12/3/2008

Comics were delayed a bit this week so I apologize for the delay in the reviews but here we go, this week : Batman 682, JSA 21, and Secret Invasion 8. Click below to read :

Batman #682 (Last Rites Part 1)

I have been loving Morrison’s run and I was hoping for some better explanation..well here it comes, in a stream of consciousness issue that covers a lot of Batman’s history and what he’s up to now. Still confusing but so Morrison, we start to get some ideas as to what is actually going on here. This is the first of two comics this week (the other being Secret Invasion) to throw something at me from out of left field, which is good because I like unexpected twists. The tie-in with Final Crisis is there, but not fully fleshed out yet. Here’s to hoping that the next issue carries this momentum. Also, on a side note, I picked up the Tony Daniel variant cover (pictured above) featuring the Joker. I couldn’t help myself, it’s creepy and awesome.

Secret Invasion #8

See, I do buy Marvel comics! This is the conclusion to Marvel’s big event (didn’t DC have one too called Final something or other??) and I will say that it was a satisfying ending that sets up the next year of the Marvel Universe. Some heroes go away, some return and some other very unexpected people get promoted. Was I happy with Secret Invasion as an event? Yes. Will I follow Dark Reign? Don’t know yet…we’ll see once it starts which books, if any, I’ll follow for that event.

Justice Society of America #21 (One World Under Gog Part 746….I mean Part 6)

Seems like this has been going on forever, but finally we get some movement towards an end. The anti-Gog JSA members step up and expose Gog for what he is. This, as one would think, angers Gog who starts to revoke his gifts to the pro-Gog members which causes much chaos. Next issue is the end, then after that….Black Adam!

Randomness from the comic shop :

I also picked up Bomb Queen Volume 1 : Woman of Mass Destruction in trade. I started reading Bomb Queen at Volume 3 and finally have time to go back and catch up on the first two stories. If you have never read Bomb Queen and have anything close to a sick or dark sense of humor, check it out and you will not be disappointed. I’ll have a review up in a week or so.

The conversation at the shop was fairly random this week: John Carpenter movies including the Roddy Piper classic They Live, plans for Wizard World Chicago this August, Alex Ross’ art, Ethan Van Sciver, and the fact that Tony Daniel’s variant covers for Batman RIP should have been the regular covers. I forgot to mention in a previous article the store manager’s (joking) dig on my hometown of Philadelphia, referring to it as “a wretched hive of scum and villainy”….where have I heard that before?

Until next week where the comics are back to the normal Wednesday….

Saint Nick's Day

So here we have another Midwestern tradition that I was not familiar with before I moved out here. St. Nick's Day, a traditionally German tradition, had something to do with little kids putting shoes outside their door and St. Nick (not Santa, he's different) places candy and small toys in them. Well here in the German-influenced winter wonderland that is Milawukee, Wisconsin, the tradition continues through giving small gifts to one another.

Now this one I'll actually participate in, unlike Sweetest Day (or Valentine's Day 2 - Electric Boogaloo sponsored by Hallmark). Liz picked me up two cool gifts that I thoguht people would enjoy seeing so here we go. First we have the latest addition to our rubber duck collevtion. How did the rubber duck collection begin, you ask? I honestly don't recall, but it's there. I give you.....Zombie Duck :

Next up we have a set of figures that I saw in Madison a while back and Liz found them right here in Brew City....Mr. Bacon versus Monsieur Tofu:
Now I will tell you that in my house, bacon wins everytime. Flawless Victory :-)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A few more days for comic reviews :-(

As all of you in the US know, new comics won't arrive in stores until today (Thursday). Unfortunately due to my work schedule I won't be able to get any books until later Friday. Please check back on Saturday for my reviews for the week.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Show & Tell #1 - Question / Rocket Red / Brainiac

Welcome to my first installment of Show & Tell. This was inspired by my wife’s career as a pre-school teacher, as well as spending some time recently with my 5 year old nephew Noah.

Noah gave me the pleasure of showing off all of his Transformers toys last weekend at a birthday party, and as an uncle I was honored that he would share these with me. As a toy collector, I was utterly horrified as he pulled random arms and legs and heads from action figures out of his bin and nonchalantly explained to me that they are missing parts and why. He’s only 5 I kept repeating to myself

This week we have 3 action figures from the Justice League Unlimited 4-inch collection : (from left to right The Question, Rocket Red, and Brainiac).

The Question figure is awesome because….well, it’s The Question. Enough said on that. Rocket Red I found by accident while walking through Kmart of all places just killing time in the toy aisle while Liz was buying me the PlayStation 3 I don’t know about for Christmas. And to think I was ready to pay 3 times as much at Wizard World last year for this figure. Last but not least we have Brainiac, who I bought while in Boston. Yes, leave it to me to come home from a large family wedding across the country with a suitcase full of action figures. To my defense, the KB Toys in the mall across from the hotel was closing and having an awesome sale on everything so I cleaned house :-)

Next week I’ll feature some Lego comic characters that live in the art studio