Sunday, March 29, 2009

Upcoming Content Update

Thanks to anyone who stuck with me through some scheduling issues in the past few months. Here are some of the features that will be coming soon to this blog:

Guest Reviews : I have tapped my good friend and escaped Canadian Shawn Robinson to start writing some reviews here. Shawn reads more Marvel and Indies than I do so hopefully it will add some diversity to the regular DC reviews from my rather biased pull list.

Russian Roulette Random Reviews (Name still in development) : Either myself or Shawn will randomly grab a book out of our boxes and review that book or story arc, good or bad, old or new.

Comic Roundtable Discussions : Once a month or so at first, We'll be gathering a group of comic afficionados to talk about that month's releases, story arcs or maybe any other special topic that is affecting the world of comics, movies, or just randomness in our lives. Hopefully, once we get the gear in place, we would like to start doing this as a regular podcast or video blog...but we're taking little steps first :-)

I'll be coming back with some Retro Reviews and some Show & Tell articles as well, once I get my action figure debacle in my studio straightened out. Nothing major, there's just honestly too damn many of them and I need to re-do the displays.

So, please keep checking in, comments and suggestions are always welcome!

- Jason

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Looking Forward to Wednesday (4/1/2009)

This upcoming week’s reviews may be a bit delayed. Due to some work scheduling I probably won’t be able to pick up comics until Thursday or Friday. I’ll hopefully start posting some reviews over the weekend. On to this week’s anticipated books :

DC Comics

Batman : Battle for the Cowl – Man Bat #1 : So far, so good on these books. I’ve enjoyed the series so far and although I think we all know where it’s going, I’m curious to see where the journey winds through.

Flash Rebirth #1 : Johns and Van Sciver. That’s it. Honestly I am not really a Flash fan but I can’t ignore a book by these two :-)

Justice Society of America #25 : I’m interested to see where this Black Adam arc is going because the beginning wasn’t as great as I was hoping, but I’m a big fan of the character and Geoff Johns so I have hope.

Seaguy : The Slaves of Mickey Eye #1 : I like Morrison so I’m giving this a try on a slow week.

Other Publishers :

GI Joe #4 : This series has been phenomenal so far so here’s hoping for more greatness from one of my favorite childhood elite military teams.

Actually seems like it will be a slow week unless something else really catches my eye. If there aren’t that many books coming out I may pick up the GI Joe / Transformers trade by John Ney Reiber and Jae Lee. It’s set in (if I remember correctly) WWII and was a great read when I borrowed it from a friend a while back. I’ll review it as a trade if I pick it up.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Second Opinion : Justice League of America #31

Sometimes I get too caught up in a particular problem with a comic and miss the big picture. I think this happened this past week with Justice League of America #31. Here are my new thoughts :

After talking to some other comic fans and re-reading the issue, I realize that I missed the point of this book. First off, let me address the first page. It seems that instead of Zatanna calling Wonder Woman by the wrong name, that this is not supposed to be Wonder Woman but Black Canary, which makes more sense within the story. Probably just a script or artist error, no happens.

Now, on to the story. Hal and Ollie basically sum up, very well in fact, the fan's feelings about Justice League over the past two years and change. The League, as a book and as a team, has been thoroughly ineffective since the new volume began. And they're completely right. In my opinion, a book like JLA should be a flagship book, meaning that it should have the highest caliber writers and artists working on it to keep the team interesting and the stories spectacular. It should be on every DC fan's pull list. But the team in the past two years has equated to corporate middle management, just putting out fires here and there in order to keep the status quo. We need bigger, more epic stories in a book like JLA. If you look at it another way, basically the characters in the book are blaming Black Canary (aka writer Dwayne McDuffie who seems to offer himslef up as a scapegoat) for the problems with the league, and don't want to play her game anymore. I don't blame McDuffie for the problems though. For some reason DC treated this book as an advertisement for other books and filled it with way too many crossovers and tie-ins. Continuity is one thing, but tying everything in at the expense of the story is not cool.

Lastly, in this book, some Final Crisis threads were addressed such as Bruce and J'onn's deaths, Hawkgirl's injury (thought she was dead, but oh well) and we also get a preview of James Robinson's version of Justice League which has now been changed to a mini-series coming this summer.

I'm looking forward to Robinson's Justice League and I truly hope that it rekindles the fan's love for team books. Because the Justice League, in whatever incarnation, is a great team and deserves great stories. We'll see what happens, but #31 will be the last issue of JLA that I'll buy until something really impressive happens.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Comic Book Reviews 3/25/2009 : Part 2

Here are the rest of the reviews for this week. Click below :

Battle for the Cowl : Commissioner Gordon : Solid issue all around. The art was good, and the interaction between Gordon and Mr. Freeze was interesting. I’m really hoping that the Jason Todd Batman (referenced in this issue) sticks around for a bit, because Todd always gets shafted when they “re-invent” him. The loss of hope is well doen in this issue as Gordon has to come to terms with the fact that Batman may, in fact, be gone for good. The GCPD now has to man up and act like cops again without using Batman as a crutch.

Superman #686 : This “World Without Superman” storyline (where have I heard that title before?) is off to a good start. I was debating whether or not I would continue to get Action Comics, Superman AND World of New Krypton but so far all 3 have turned out to be good stories. This title will be following Mon-El, who is now using the secret ID of Jonathan Kent to be a Science Police officer, and The Guardian who commands the Science Police. Both of these heroes were hand-picked by Supes to take care of Metropolis while he’s on his mission to New Krypton. I honestly never cared for these two characters before but this is a good start.

Transformers : All Hail Megatron #9 : What happened here? I have been loving this story, and this issue is no exception, but there was a jarring artist change on this issue. Previous issues which were drawn by Guido Guidi had a “realism and grittiness” to it that really added to the destruction caused by the Decepticons invasion. This issue jumps to a cartoony style that I feel doesn’t fit the book as well. The story by Shane McCarthy is still fantastic though, updating all of the Transformers : G1 goodness that I remember so fondly. And, as the cover art foretells, guess who's back? Yup..the big guy, the O to tha P, baby.

Wonder Woman #30 : I would consider this book to be DC’s underdog right now. The story involving the replacement of Wonder Woman and the Amazons, and introducing the new villain Genocide has been a slow burn, but a great story so far. Gail Simone’s writing on this one will work better in trade for most people or re-reading all at once but it has kept me coming back every month. The Olympian is finally born, and I'm still confused as to why the Greek gods are dressed like DEVO (I hear Whip It every time one of them is on panel).

GI Joe : Origins #2 : Kind of slow compared to the first issue, but I’m still enjoying the revamp of GI Joe history. Larry Hama keeps it the way I remember it, while updating some of the storyline.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Comic Book Reviews 3/25/2009 : Part 1

I had a fairly good haul this week with 6 books purchased (2 of which I wasn't planning on). Here are reviews for 2 of those titles (one good, one not so good) with the rest of them to come later in the week. Click below for the reviews :

Justice League of America #31

Damn you JLA, I dropped you months ago and thought this Final Crisis aftermath issue might be what brought me back. You were even drawn by one of my up and coming favorites, Shane Davis. But let’s start with Page ONE, where Zatanna refers to Wonder Woman as Dinah….twice!!! This made zero sense, and Black Canary is shown in the next panels to be in a secret meeting room at this time, so it’s not that she was there but not shown. The rest of the issue does in fact tie up a few Final Crisis points effectively and mostly kicks off Hal’s new upcoming team but JLA, once again, serves as a tie-in book and that’s it.

This title needs to be desperately revamped and house it’s own grand stories involving the best heroes in the DC Universe. Needless to say, JLA will have to do something phenomenal to get back on my regular list.

Oracle : The Cure #1

I was not planning on picking this book up, but after leafing through it at the shop I was very pleasantly surprised. The story is well done and addresses (as does JLA #31) some post-Final Crisis story points such as the lingering Anti-Life Equation and Calculator’s run-in with Darkseid’s lackeys. The book really made me care about Barbara Gordon as she moves back into Gotham City, I assume after wherever she was in Birds of Prey but I never really read that title.

The title “The Cure” suggests that somehow Barbara Gordon will gain the ability to walk again. Honestly, I hope if this does happen that she remains Oracle in some capacity because I think she makes a better Oracle than Batgirl. Based on this issue I will definitely be picking up the other two issues.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Looking Forward to Wednesday (3/11/2009)

Thanks to anyone who has continued to read my posts even with my haphazard posting schedule as of late. Here we are again at the best day of the week...New Comic Book Day! A few anticipated books coming out today and I'm sure that there will be much discussion at the old comic shop about the Watchmen movie. Can't wait :-) I'll post some reviews later tonight, hopefully. Click below for my pull list for this week :

DC Comics

Action Comics #875
Batman : Battle for the Cowl #1
Green Lantern Corps #34


GI Joe #3
Transformers : All Hail Megatron #8

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Movie Review : Watchmen (2009)

To kick off this review, I'd like to include a little bit of background about my experience with the Watchmen story. I first picked up the Watchmen graphic novel around 1990 and loved it instantly. I thought that this was the way comics should be written from that point forward. It was gritty, real and had an ending that did not compromise and stayed controversial. After waiting nearly two decades for a movie version of this "unfilmable" story, the Zack Snyder directed Watchmen did not disappoint.

Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is how you make an adult superhero epic! Spoilers for both the book and the movie follow, so be aware before you continue below...and you may want to get something to drink, this is a long one.

I'm writing this review before I read any other reviews online or in other media so this is my own undiluted view of the film. I'm trying to convince my wife to write a guest review from the point of view of someone who hasn't read the book, or many comic books at all. She absolutely loved the movie by the way

Quickly before the review, those that know me know that I'm a movie trailer fanatic, so we got a new Transformers trailer (sweet), a Seth Rogen movie about him as a mall cop (meh) and a Terminator : Salvation trailer (awesome).

On to the review : The visuals are beautiful. I'm no film expert, just an enthusiast. The opening credit sequence was unexpected and enjoyable, and the general tone of the film is very dark but not overly so. Snyder uses the same slow-motion fighting techniques that he uses in 300 (which I'm actually watching while writing this) but he doesn't over-do it. In my opinion, it gives the fight scenes an amplified impact and really ups the ante on the brutality. And the movie is brutal...impressively so. I don't recall that much blood and gore from the book and that might be my only real issue with the film as it began to feel excessive at times.

As far as sound design goes, I was equally impressed. The music choices fit the scenery and lent a "real world" feel. The only one I found cheesy was the use of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" during the Nite Owl / Silk Spectre sex scene, which also seemed a bit drawn out but didn't take you too far out of the movie. During the excellent fight sequences, every impact is heard and felt by the viewer making them that much more brutal. This is used effectively during the prison riot scene and the final fight at Karnak.

With regards to the source material, many of my favorite moments were intact in the movie. Rorschach's morphing mask was well done, although without the explanation from the book which didn't really bother me. Doctor Manhattan's indifferent and detached attitude toward regular humans is dead on, as is his origin (for some reason I was always fascinated by the concept of a disembodied nervous system floating around). Even Ozymandias' genetically altered cat Bubastis makes a cameo but is never really explained, although given the tweaked ending that is understandable and not particularly necessary.

My favorite sequence in the book remains (mostly) unchanged, though. When Nite Owl and Rorschach confront Ozymandias in the end, Ozy lays out his master plan in true Bond cillain style. Rorschach tells him that they won't let him do it, to which Ozymandias replies (and excuse me if I get the wording a little wrong, I don't have the book in front of me): I'm not some comic book super-villain. Do you seriously think I'd explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did (triggered in the movie) it thirty-five minutes ago. At this point, all hope drops from the heroes and they feel insignificant and helpless in the face of such a bold move. Nite Owl actually witnessing Rorschach's killing is a nice addition in the film and adds a great deal of emotional turmoil to an already disturbing ending.

About the ending, which is tweaked from the book : I had read, early on in the production, that they were not going to use the "alien squid" from the book. This bothered me at first because this book has one of my favorite endings in comics history. It recalls the old moral question "Would you kill one to save a thousand?" In the book, Ozymandias manufactures an alien creature using genetic research (hence his genetically altered pet) and fakes an alien attack on New York City in order to unite the world against a percieved otherworldly invasion. The basic plot is still there in the film, although the movie makes the threat more worldwide by involving other cities and makes Dr. Manhattan the scapegoat as Ozymandias uses Manhattan's powers to kick off his plan. After the attack, the world does indeed unite as one, ushering in an era of peace and unity, leaving our heroes to debate whether this is the best move for the greater good. The only hero that holds his moral ground, is Rorschach, who is silenced as well.

Bringing this to a close, because my fingers are getting tired, this was an exceptionally enjoyable movie from beginning to end and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has or has not read the book. not having read it did in no way detract from my wife's experience, and actually may have helped because she wasn't looking for certain things to happen. I am most impressed that the movie was not "dumbed down" for a mass audience, as these movies sometimes are.

UPDATE : OK, now that I've read some other reviews I'd like to address a few things.

1. CNN has a headline from one of their iReporters (the "i" apparently stands for idiot on this one) that reads "Watchmenis a great movie, but not for kids" Really!?! No shit? Was the "R" rating your first clue or did it take you until the end to figure this out?

2. One of the other things I'm seeing is a favorite occurence of mine in the comic book fanatic community, the "never happy" reviews. Die hard comic book reviewers have been complaining for ages that comic book movies stray too far from the source material and take too many liberties. I'm seeing many reviews for Watchmen that claim that Snyder sticks TOO CLOSE to the source material and that it failed as a film because it doesn't stray far enough. Seriously?

3. "People who didn't read the book will be totally lost." Bullshit, my wife never read it and she was as excited and pumped up as I was when we left the theater. Reason #852 why I married her :-)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Watchmen review soon

So, we're heading out to see Watchmen in a little bit. I've avoided all online info about it in the last week or so and I'll write my review tomorrow before reading anyone else's thoughts on the film. Personally I can't wait to see it.

I'll also be getting back into some weekly comic reviews and I have a Retro Review of The Killing Joke written up as well.

UPDATE : Saw it last night and loved it. Review coming soon. I'm also trying to convince my wife to write up a review from the point of view of someone who never read the book.