Saturday, June 25, 2011

Quick Review: Green Lantern

I was looking forward to Green Lantern. Even bad reviews couldn’t kill my excitement. Unfortunately, seeing the film did kill the excitement. Hal Jordan is a test pilot still fixated on his own father’s death at the stick. When Green Lantern Abin Sur is close to death, his ring selects Jordan as a ring-bearer. From there we see him train on Oa, get the cold shoulder from Sinestro, argue, bond, argue, bond with Carol Ferris, and save the world.

Good: Some of the only good scenes are when Hal is on Oa hanging out with other Green Lanterns. In the comics, Sinestro was a Green Lantern at one time and the movie did a great job making him both commanding and likeable but adding a little foreshadowing to the story where you can see him being the evil villain he was destined to become. In the comic, the ring is useless on anything yellow. I’m glad the movie didn’t mention it and the ring worked fine on yellow things.

Bad: Geez. Where do I start? The main villain in this film is Parallax, a yellow blob that destroys planets and manages to kill several powerful Green Lanterns including the one who was able to imprison him at one time, Abin Sur. Hal is able to kill the villain in what has to be the most uninspired final battle since the ‘strobe-light-battle’ in Ang Lee’s “The Hulk.” My thought is that if you start the franchise with Parallax, battling against someone weaker (Sinestro) in the sequel is pretty lame.

I also hated Carol Ferris and the Hal/Carol story. She’s mad at him, she’s disappointed in him, she’s worried about him, she’s disappointed in him again, she’s mad again, she’s supportive – PICK ONE. Less would have been more. I thought one of the cooler things was when Hal when to her house has Green Lantern and I thought he was going to reveal his secret, instead Carol quickly figures out who he is (the tiny mask makes for a lousy disguise from a childhood friend). I was disappointed because I thought it would be the first time I saw any emotional depth from the characters in the film. The heartfelt conversation afterward was unnecessary because 20 minutes later she repeats part of it in his apartment.

See It/Skip It/Buy It: There was so much I hated about this film. I haven’t even scratched the surface. SKIP IT. Don’t give Warner Bros a reason to make a sequel. Make them start over like they’re doing with Superman. In the future (if there are any  Warner Bros reps watching) watch Marvel movies to see how to create characters that the audience roots for (Tony Stark is a womanizing alcoholic with a HUGE ego and we still like him so writing a likeable Hal Jordan is possible). So far I’ve hated Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern, Deadpool, and he was pretty good as Hannibal in Blade Trinity. I don’t know if I should blame him, the script, or the director (Chris Evans has done a lot of comic book movies and been great in all of them – I can’t wait until Captain America comes out).

What I would have done differently: I would have made the movie more about Hal and Sinestro. Hal is a successful test pilot (not a dude still suffering some kind of PTSD over his father’s death) who is selected for the Corps after being suspended for destroying a test jet (not for incompetence but because it will take the company a while to get another jet up and running for Hal to test). On Oa, he will train, bond, and go on missions with Kilowog and Sinestro while returning to earth every so often.

Carol Ferris, a pilot and the daughter of the owner of Hal’s company, comes to check up on him and hang out – they have enjoyed a close friendship since childhood. Hal’s training on Oa is making him less glib as he has seen a lot of other cultures and saved lives. Carol is attracted to Hal’s newfound sense of responsibility even if she doesn’t know where it comes from and the two start dating. While out on a date, something happens and Hal is forced to use the ring to save Carol or save someone right in front of her. Eventually Sinestro would meet Carol either on Earth or because Hal takes her to Oa. When the Yellow Lantern Corps threatens either Earth or Oa, Carol is there to see it – Hal and Sinestro side-by-side, friends.

At some point in the battle, Sinestro puts a yellow ring on with his green ring still on and is able to wield them both, tipping the scales so Hal can get the upper hand and help to defeat the remaining Yellow Lanterns. At the end, Hal thanks his friend Sinestro for helping to either keep Earth or (if they’re on Oa) Carol safe. Sinestro is still wearing both rings and Hal jokes that he’s going to have to take one of those rings off eventually (as the yellow one seemed painful to use during the fight). At the end, Hal and Carol fly off into the sunset and have some meaningful conversation or other.

At the very end (maybe after the credits), Sinestro is looking down on Oa, the planet is so small to him from where he is in space. He looks down at the two rings on his finger. You then see him from the chest up, he looks like he’s taking a ring off and lifts a green ring into view – he’s taken it off! Slowly his costume changes from Green to Yellow Lantern and he glares at the green ring as he releases it, allowing it to float away from him. As he flies off, the green ring pulses and zips off through space where it goes to Earth to land in the hand of John Stewart, Guy Gardner, or Kyle Rayner.

This would set up a second movie where Hal, Carol, and the Corps are conflicted about Sinestro being a Yellow Lantern and Hal spends the movie fighting him but trying to convince him to take the yellow ring off until deciding that Sinestro has to be stopped even if it means killing him, setting Sinestro up as Hal’s arch-enemy. Hal also has to train the new Green Lantern chosen by Sinestro’s ring. And Sinestro goes after his old ring’s new bearer, taking it personal that someone dares to wield it.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

DC Relaunches Their Entire Superhero Line

DC Comics announced they were canceling their entire line and relaunching with 53 titles that are a mix of old titles (Superman) and new titles (Fury of Firestorm). This isn’t just a ploy or some weak ‘jumping on’ point for new readers – they are actually erasing decades of muddled continuity and starting over with a new universe. And this new universe will work WildStorm characters in (DC is offering The Grifter, StormWatch, and Voodoo ongoing series). I looked around the internet for articles and read as much as I could.

I’ve been reading comics for almost thirty years and I’ve always been a fan of both DC and Marvel titles. I was there for most of DC’s milestones. I was there for The Killing Joke, the Death of Superman, A Death in the Family, 52, Countdown, Identity Crisis, Final Crisis, etc. I had a lot of fun in this DC Universe but the problem with all that continuity is that it takes a lot of effort to triple check all of your stories to make sure they don’t conflict with established continuity unless you’re changing a character’s back story (like in Byrnes’ “Man of Steel” mini) and it handcuffs the writers’ creativity.

I currently enjoy a few DC titles and like checking in on others from time to time but I’m excited that the DCU is starting over fresh. From everything I’ve read, origins and costumes may be tweaked or changed all together to make them more current. For example, Batman may still lose his parents and dedicate his life to fighting crime but his parents might die in a drive-by shooting or a disgruntled employee might plant a car bomb – or his origin will stay the same.

Bob Wayne at DC Comics stresses, “[This] is the launch ofthe New DCU.  It is not a 'reboot.'” I’ll be ordering all 52 titles to see if I like them. All 52? Yes. I don’t think I’ll ever see another universe-wide relaunch like this again in my lifetime. This is a really exciting time to be a comic book fan.

I’ve read a lot of negative stuff from the fans but DC isn’t relaunching with new writers and artists. All of the great writers and artists at DC will be working on the books and I’m sure they’ve been cooking this up for a year or more. Before Justice League #1 (the first book of the relaunch) is released, you can bet that there is plenty of foundation laid out to ensure that there are great stories to tell for years to come. 


Teen Titans #1 cover by Brett Booth

Monday, June 13, 2011

Toy Reviews: GI Joe, Marvel Universe, and Vintage Star Wars

I was never a big toy collector. I always dabbled, getting a figure here or there, but not collecting an entire series of anything. Then I saw advertising (I’m not sure where) for the GI Joe 25th Anniversary box set and I couldn’t wait.

As a kid I was a huge GI Joe fan and had a lot of the figures. As I got older I didn’t know what to do with the figures so I sold them to a friend. Over the years I’ve seen the vintage figures at comic stores, yard sales, and on eBay but haven’t wanted to reacquire them. But the 25th Anniversary figures were different – the sculpts were light years better than the originals. I have all of the figures (not variants except the Wraith variant) from each basic wave.

That was the start of my addiction to 3 ¾ figures.

I’m not as big a collector of the Pursuit of Cobra line of figures but I now have every figure of every basic wave of Marvel Universe figures (with the exception of some variants) and I get a few figures from each 3 ¾ series so I thought I’d review a few of those toy lines.
In the pictures are (from left to right): Cobra Shock Trooper (from GI Joe Pursuit of Cobra), Dial-Tone (from GI Joe 25th Anniversary (GI Joe Collector’s Club Exclusive)), Hal Jordan: Green Lantern (from Green Lantern movie), Captain Jack Sparrow (from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), and Battlefield Captain America (from Captain America: The First Avenger)

GI Joe 25th Anniversary
This is the series that started the 3 ¾ revolution for me. When I was a kid I collected the figures, comic books, and eagerly watched the cartoons. As an adult, I don’t like the cartoons too much, the comic books aren’t that great, but the characters themselves have made an indelible mark on my life that these figures perfectly embody.
Good: A good portion of the figures I had as a kid were redone with new sculpts but the same great accessories and even greater articulation. Matt Tracker as a GI Joe figure rocks! Bring back MASK!
Bad: There were a few lousy characters – anything from “Tiger Force” sucked. Matt Tracker seemed to sell really well so why not release more GI Joe-style MASK figures?
Available: The availability really depended on the wave. There were waves I never saw so I had to get them from or
Dabble/Collect: At the time I would have said “Collect” but it’s been a while and prices are high and they aren’t sold in stores anymore. Still, if you had a chance to get any of these great figures, congratulations.

GI Joe Pursuit of Cobra
After the success of the “25th Anniversary” and “Rise of Cobra” lines, Hasbro gives us the most accessorized and detailed GI Joe figures I’ve ever seen.

Good: From these figures’ all-new sculpts, their jackets, to the assortment of gear stuffed in the bubble, these figures are incredible.
Bad: Only 5 waves have come out and we already have 3 different versions of Snake Eyes. There are characters in here that are obscure or have never had a figure before while I want characters like Roadblock and Scarlett to get the “Pursuit” treatment.
Available: I have had to get almost all my figures through Stores continually have 3 or 4 sad figures hanging (most of them the Arctic Destro).
Dabble/Collect: I dabble. I only have the first Snake Eyes they came out with and all of the Storm Shadow figures have sucked. Figures like Firefly, Lowlight, and Beachhead are my favorite action figure versions of those characters. But figures like Croc Master and Blowtorch look just like their 25th Anniversary counterparts.

Green Lantern movie
This is DC’s first foray into 3 ¾ territory (I think their other figure lines were 3” and I don’t count the animated style figures) and they’ve based the figures on the upcoming Green Lantern film starring Ryan Reynolds. I got swept up in Green Lantern fever and purchased the Toys ‘R Us Early Bird figure.

Good: It’s Green Lantern along with other members of the Green Lantern Corp. The figures have cool “construct” accessories like Green Lantern has a huge green fist and Sinestro has two green swords.
Bad: The sculpts are a little thin and figures like Kilowag don’t tower over the other figures like he should. There is limited articulation and they’re just as expensive as much better figure lines like GI Joe: Pursuit of Cobra and any of the Marvel lines.
Available: All of the figures have been very available and no figures seem to be more popular than others.
Dabble/Collect: I only have Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Kilowog, Sinestro, and Abin Sur. If a figure comes out based on Blake Lively, I’ll pick that one up and then I’ll have all of the main cast.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
PotC is here again and with it, a new slew of toys. I don’t know if this is the first time Jack has been 3 ¾ because I wouldn’t have been paying attention back then.

Good: Great detailing and no glut of Jack Sparrow in different uniforms. Even Gibbs gets a figure in this series. The accessories are a cool rubber material which makes their hats go on easily but help them to stay put. The swords have scabbards attached to the figures and are easy to get in and out.
Bad: Lack of articulation and they’re just as expensive as much better figure lines like GI Joe: Pursuit of Cobra and any of the Marvel lines. I haven’t seen any indication that they’re going to come out with a Philip and Syrena figure (they were a major part of the movie).
Available: I haven’t noticed a shortage of any one figure.
Dabble/Collect: I dabble very little in this collection. I bought a Toys ‘R Us exclusive three pack with Jack Sparrow, Angelina, and Blackbeard because it was $20 for three figures and I wanted all three figures. I will also get Philip and Syrena figures if they become available as they were the best part of the movie for me (aside from Jack’s antics of course).

Captain America: The First Avenger
The Avengers film is less than a year away but Captain America is coming to a theatre near you next month. Marvel has a tradition with its X-Men Origins and Iron Man 2 figures of giving you three categories of figures: Movie, Comic Book, and Concept. Captain America: The First Avenger action figure series is no different.

Good: Captain America costumes from the movie to the Heroic Age of comics along with villains like the movie version of Red Skull and the comic book version of Crossbones make this line diverse enough for movie and comic book lovers.
Bad: In the tradition of X-Men Origins and Iron Man 2 figures, the women in the film and in the comic book have been ignored. I don’t know who the girl is shooting at Cap in the trailer of the film but it’s a good bet she won’t have a figure. Also, I hate some of the bladed and separating shields - I want the figures to have the regular shield (I have to get a figure with a regular shield to replace the stupid looking ones that come with the Heroic Age or Ultimates version).
Available: My guess is that this series will follow in Iron Man 2’s footsteps. There will always be three or four figures only released one to a case in one wave while six of the various Captain America figures will always haunt the toy shelves, never moving until there is a sale that frees up some space. That shelf space will be taken by another 5 cases of figures that collectors have already cherry picked which will leave the same six various Captain America figures clogging the shelves. Ugh.
Dabble/Collect: Collect…eventually. I only bought the Battlefield Captain America and I’m waiting until the movie is released to see if I can find a Red Skull figure to see how much trouble finding figures is going to be. If I can’t find Red Skull, I might have to spring for a case of figures on If I spring for a case, I’ll be assured that all I have is one figure that I might end up with more than one of.

In the pictures are (from left to right): Stormtrooper (from Vintage Star Wars), The Hulk (from Marvel Universe), Logan (from X-Men Origins: Wolverine), War Machine (from Iron Man 2), and Black Guard (from Tron Legacy)

Vintage Star Wars
I liked the vintage announcement that said we were celebrating Empire Strikes Back’s anniversary with action figures on vintage-looking cards. With the vintage figures came a mail away offer for a vintage Boba Fett with the rocket-firing accessory he was supposed to have when he first came out in the 80’s. It also came with the largest AT-AT in the history of the toy.

I’m not a Star Wars collector but I wanted the AT-AT badly. I didn’t get to have one as a kid and have been eyeballing it whenever it has come out in the past. I couldn’t resist it. I also couldn’t resist the mail away Boba Fett figure so I had to get five figures and ended up with about 10.

Good: Great articulation, the figures are detailed with great paint jobs, and the accessories were movie/character specific.
Bad: The price: $9-$10 per figure. There are characters in the vintage line that no one wants (the no-name aliens and things like Senate Guard) and no one is paying for. The figures look great in the packages but they’re basically figures you’ve gotten in other series (except the R2-D2 on Jabba’s Skiff – I’ve never seen that one before and I collect R2-D2s).
Available: All of the figures are available – I do look through them still looking for anything new and flip to the back to see what other figures are out and can find all the figures at different times. But that first wave with Boba Fett and Luke in Bespin outfit is gone and I haven’t seen that in a while.
Dabble/Collect: If you’re a Star Wars fan, you already are collecting these in some form or another. I just dabble in the figures that I thought I’d need to stage a scene with the super-huge AT-AT.

Marvel Universe
When I found out there were 3 ¾ Marvel figures that were just as detailed and articulated as the Legends line, I thought that sounded awesome. At first I was hesitant to get any because the good Legends figures were always really difficult to get and showed up on eBay for 2 – 3 times retail. The first time I saw the first wave at Toys ‘R Us was the first and the last time I was able to grab every figure in a wave. I was hooked. I loved the figures.

Good: Great diversity in the line from Avengers to X-Men to street-level heroes, no corner of the Marvel Universe is untouched. The detailing is great, the paint is great, and I like that the figures come with a stand like the GI Joe figures do. I like that figures like Juggernaut and Hulk are enormous while Spider-Man is appropriately thin in comparison.
Bad: Some of the figures have been…stupid. Wolverine in the Jim Lee blue & yellow costume without his mask on? Some two packs have a figure you already have (Deadpool) with a new figure you don’t (Taskmaster). And the upcoming three packs have a Fantastic Four pack with two figures we already have and one figure we don’t (Invisible Girl). There is an X-Force silver & black Wolverine, Warpath, and Deadpool but the only way to get the Archangel version is to pay $100 because it was an exclusive at the New York Convention. Speaking of X-Force, female characters are virtually ignored in this line as well – no Psylocke or X-23.
Available: Most figures are tough to get here in San Diego. The racks currently have three versions of Iron Man, AIM soldier, Winter Soldier, Iron Spider-Man, and Jim Lee Wolverine. I order most of my figures from but I have never seen a Cable, Thanos, Archangel, Mystique, etc. in all of my Target/Walmart/Toys ‘R Us toy searches.
Dabble/Collect: Collect them all! This line will probably end before it gives us all the awesomeness it can and I’ve been able to make some diverse teams with the figures (like the New Fantastic Four with Spider-Man, the Gray Hulk, Wolverine (classic yellow & blue (not Jim Lee uniform)), and Ghost Rider (I know it’s the wrong version but it’s the only one they’ve come out with).

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
The movie was garbage. In the cannon of X-movies, I pretend this one doesn’t exist (X-Men First Class is much better if you do the same thing).

Good: The toy line was amazing – movie and comic book versions of the Wolverine cast and various X-Men. There was a Toys ‘R Us exclusive Wolverine with a motorcycle and the comic book version of Sabertooth, there was comic book versions of Maverick, Gambit, Deadpool, and Iceman. The tan and brown version of Wolverine was awesome.
Bad: No movie version of Blob. There was no comic book or movie version of Wraith, Silverfox, Agent Zero, or Emma Frost. The movie had the Hudsons and, although Marvel Universe put out Guardian, could have put out a comic book version of Heather as Vindicator. It also would have been a good reason to put out the comic book version of the original Alpha Flight.
Available: Everything was available until the later waves. I found out after all the figures had disappeared off the shelves that Colossus was available in one of the waves and is the only figure I didn’t see.
Dabble/Collect: For Marvel Universe figure collectors, this line is a gold mine of X-Men characters and just about every version of Wolverine is presented here. Whether you dabble or collect you can’t go wrong.

Iron Man 2
Whether you liked the movie or thought it was a 2 hour advertisement for the Avengers, the toy line had a lot of variety. I was pretty sick of Iron Man figures because the Marvel Universe line already had Iron Man in a variety of armors. The Iron Man 2 line brought a lot of great Comic Book version movie armors and some cool Concept armors too.

Good: There is no stone left unturned as just about every comic book version of Iron Man’s armor is offered in this collection. The Mark 1 from the first movie and the original armor from the comic book is a great touch. A Toys ‘R Us exclusive set gives us the movie version of Nick Fury. And the movie and comic book versions of War Machine are awesome.
Bad: The Ultimate armor is a concept armor but it would have been awesome to have the Ultimates version of Iron Man. I also would have liked movie and comic book versions of Petter Potts and Happy Hogan and Tony and Rhodey as civilians.
Available: The later waves are hard to find. I have only one of each drone because I’ve only laid eyes on them once.
Dabble/Collect: Dabble only. There are some armors that are beyond stupid (I’m looking at you Inferno armor).

Tron Legacy
How cool were the uniforms in this movie? There wasn’t an enormous amount of characters in this film so there wasn’t a lot of depth to the movie line. And because of the light-up features of each figure, they were expensive.

Good: The light-up features were cool. The figures all had stands and could actually hold their identity disks.
Bad: They were expensive. While the Tron Legacy figures were cool, there was an opportunity to do figures from the first movie. I wish the light on the light-up feature would stay on – that would make it cool to display. The areas where the figures light up are dark and make it look like the suits are all black when not lit up. It would have been cool to have figures without the feature so the suits could have bright colors like in the movies (and they would have been cheaper).
Available: I’ve seen all the figures and right now most places are only charging about $5 per figure to get rid of them.
Dabble/Collect: Dabble for me. If you’re a huge Tron fan, pick them all up because there aren’t that many of them.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Quick Comic Book Reviews - 39 issues reviewed

I've been trying out a lot of issues these past few months and thought I'd review them.

X-Factor #216-220 by Peter David and Emanuela Lupacchino
In X-Factor #216-219, the team is hired by J. Jonah Jameson to find an old friend. Unknown to the team, Jameson funded a black ops program that created super-powered women who blame him for being used as government guinea pigs. And Guido dies…kinda. In X-Factor #220, Rahne and Shatterstar try to get to know each other for Rictor’s sake and run into a young, deadly Rahne-doppleganger/demon.

Good: Peter David is still one of the best writers in the industry. There’s a great bit with Jonah arguing against a crowd of anti-Muslim protestors. There are great moments with Monet and Guido even before he’s fatally injured. Black Cat plays a major role in the story. It had great character development and interaction.
Bad: A young Rahne demon. Ugh.
Buy/Skip: Buy #216-219, skip #220.

Fear Itself #1-3 by Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen
Sin found a hammer that makes her powerful and other people in the Marvel Universe are finding hammers. I know that’s not the Marvel tagline but that’s what I’m getting at. The first three issues don’t explain what’s going on or what the threat really is. There’s nothing interesting going on – just seems like destruction for no reason. Odin orders Thor arrested and Asgard leaves earth. Oh, and the Bucky Barnes incarnation of Captain America dies…again.

Good: I only had to suffer though 3 issues – if I’d have waited for the TPB, I would have been stuck with a crappy story.
Bad: Crappy story, no clear threat, Thor treated like a criminal while Odin loses his mind. What the hell is this thing about.
Buy/Skip: You can take the next 4 months off if anything says ‘Fear Itself’ on it. Skip it.

Ultimate Spider-Man #157-159 by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley
The Death of Spider-Man story-arc sees our hero scrambling to evacuate his house because the Sinister Six has broken out and know his secret identity. After evacuating Aunt May and Gwen, Peter goes looking for the Sinister Six and sees The Punisher about to fire on Captain America and does the only thing he can: tackles Cap and takes the bullet meant for him. Now, with a life threatening injury, he sees the Sinister Six heading toward his house and goes after them. Torch and Iceman get caught in the crossfire and it’s up to a mortally wounded Peter to stop the Sinister Six.

Good: Holy crap. Everything.
Bad: Nothing.
Buy/Skip: Still my favorite title and while I don’t like the thought of this version of Spider-Man dying, I can’t wait to see the final battle. Buy these titles and buy all the trade paperbacks.

Avengers vs New Ultimates #3-4 by Mark Millar and Leinil Yu
Gregory Stark is running SHIELD and The Ultimates and is trying to apprehend Nick Fury and his Avengers. The problem is that Nick Fury has been set up and the only way to prove his innocence is to stay free so his enemies can’t just kill him to cover it up.

Good: Great big action with high stakes and great artwork.
Bad: I’m not exactly sure what’s going on because I didn’t get #1 or #2 but that’s my fault.
Buy/Skip: Buy it. Stories with the Ultimates all result in the maximum amount of property damage and the craziest action and these two issues deliver on both.

Brightest Day #14 by Geoff Johns, Peter Tomasi, Ivan Reis, and Joe Prado
Deadman is looking for Batman, the man he thinks the White Ring is meant for. On his quest to find him, he is killed again and relives his first life and death before the ring resurrects him again.

Good: Boston Brand wants to live and he’s eager to shed the white lantern ring so he can start that new life. His romance with Dove is a nice touch. I love when Boston asks Batman how he knows who he is and Batman’s response is: “I’m Batman.”
Bad: I only bought #14 so I don’t know the back story.
Buy/Skip: I ordered Brightest Day volume 1 to see if I liked the series. For now I’ll just be checking out the collected editions unless the first one sucks.

Teen Titans #93-95 by JT Krul and Nicola Scott
The Teen Titans travel to Pakistan to help Cassie’s mother look for Solstice’s missing parents. What they find is a mythic evil and a portal to another universe where demons rule. The Teen Titans are being defeated and captured one at a time and used to power a giant demon.

Good: Solstice brings a new dynamic as a super-powered guest. At the beginning of #93, there is a great two page intro that explains who the Teen Titans are and why they were formed.
Bad: #93 says “Introducing Solstice” but her first appearance was in Wonder Girl #1. #95 shows Conner and Rose kissing but it turns out it’s a demon who looks like Rose. And Raven is essentially useless as she usually is in the title.
Buy/Skip: Skip it. It’s fun for #93 and becomes boring after that.

Alpha Flight #0.1 by Fred Van Lente, Greg Pak, Ben Oliver, and Dan Green
Chaos War brought the original Alpha Flight team back from the dead in time to take on the Purple Man’s daughter.

Good: Great one-issue story that reintroduces you to the team and lets you see them in action.
Bad: Where the hell is Puck and Box? Chaos War resurrects everyone but them?
Buy/Skip: Buy it and try the new Alpha Flight title.

Venom #1-3 by Rick Remender and Tom Fowler
Flash Thompson has been many things, bully, quarterback, and war hero. Now Flash Thompson has been recruited by the government to be the new wearer of the Venom symbiote. While wearing the suit, Flash has to stay calm because if he gets angry, the suit will not only take control and bond to him, the government will detonate a chip in his body and kill him. Venom’s assignment is to locate a shipment Antarctic Vibranium which can be used to make bullets that go right through any metal. In order to complete this assignment, he’ll have to go through Jack O’Lantern, Kraven, and Spider-Man to do it.

Good: Nice to see a hero in the Venom symbiote, especially since they’re both connected to Spider-Man. I haven’t seen Jack O’Lantern in decades – he’s a cool looking character who racks up a nice body count here.
Bad: The estranged Betty relationship and the constant reminder that the government could kill Flash at any moment.
Buy/Skip: Skip it. Eventually the Flash-version of Venom might be a character I like but it won’t be a result of this mini-series.

Batwoman #0 by JH Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
Batman thinks Kate Kane is Batwoman so he observes her in and out of action.

Good: Tells Kate Kane’s origin and introduces the character to new readers through Batman’s eyes.
Bad: Nothing yet.
Buy/Skip: Buy it and try the ongoing series.

Moon Knight #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
Marc Spector is a Hollywood writer whose days of being Moon Knight are far from over. When Captain America, Spider-Man, and Wolverine come to fill him in on an influx of criminal activity in his new city (Los Angeles), it’s time for Moon Knight to go to work.

Good: Great writing by Brian Michael Bendis. Nice twist ending to the first issue – Moon Knight should be on some kind of psychological medication.
Bad: I’m not a big fan of the artwork.
Buy/Skip: I’m going to get a few more issues before I bang the gavel on this title but so far it’s a lot better than the last volume’s Moon Knight #1.

Flashpoint #1-2 by Geoff Johns, Andy Kubert, and Sandra Hope
Barry Allen wakes up in the Flashpoint universe. It’s a universe where he never had the accident that turned him into The Flash and where no heroes know who he is. It’s a world in which Cyborg is trying to assemble the world’s heroes to take on the global threat posed by the Amazon / Atlantean war but is having no success. Meanwhile, Barry has convinced Batman to help him recreate the lab accident that made him into The Flash.

Good: I love a good parallel universe story. So far there’s enough mystery to keep me interested and the way Barry’s life is different in Flashpoint (his Mother is alive but Iris is with someone else) is bittersweet. The art and writing are fantastic.
Bad: If Professor Zoom is behind changing the world and is keeping a close eye on Barry, why not kill him.
Buy/Skip: Buy it. This is a great start to what promises to be an exciting mini-series.

World of Flashpoint #1 by Rex Ogle and Eduardo Francisco
Traci 13 stars in this title where her father sits on the HIVE Council which is planning to launch nuclear missiles. Traci 13 tries to stop the launch but isn’t successful.

Good: This title gives you a good overview of why the Flashpoint universe’s history is different from the DC Universe we know and shows you which villain or ideology rules what part of the world.
Bad: Traci 13 isn’t a strong enough or engaging enough character to keep my interest.
Buy/Skip: Buy it just so you know the topography and history of the Flashpoint universe but skip issue #2.

Flashpoint: Batman: Knight of Vengeance #1 by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
Thomas Wayne is Batman in the Flashpoint universe. He’s a ruthless vigilante who isn’t afraid to kill his enemies. Jim Gordon is a cop who is friends with Thomas and knows his secret. The Joker has kidnapped Harvey Dent’s kids and Batman is on his trail.

Good: A tougher, more ruthless Batman. The story is interesting.
Bad: It’s a little boring – nothing really happens in this issue. Batman is more interesting in Flashpoint #1-2 then he is here.
Buy/Skip: Skip it. Stick to reading about Batman in the main Flashpoint mini-series.

Danger Girl and the Army of Darkness #1 by Andy Hartnell and Chris Bolson
In this latest Army of Darkness crossover, Abby Chase is trying to recover a kidnapped man and runs smack dab into an artifact that scares her: a page from the necronomicon ex-mortis.

Good: I like the concept of Danger Girl but the stories usually aren’t this good. I like not introducing Ash in the first issue and Abby starting to look for him at the end of this issue.
Bad: Nothing yet. Let’s see how the next issue shapes up.
Buy/Skip: Based on the first issue I’ll probably pass on this mini-series and buy the TPB instead. Looks like this will be a good story.

Amazing Spider-Man #658-659 by Dan Slott, Javier Pulido, Fred Van Lente, and Stefano Caselli
Spidey has taken Torch’s place in the Future Foundation and immediately finds himself on a cosmic adventure. Unfortunately, Peter’s dating a detective who investigates his latest excuse for running off.

Good: By changing Peter’s job, introducing new supporting cast members, and having him on the FF, Slott has a lot of things to play with and really takes advantage of all the new elements.
Bad: Nothing so far.
Buy/Skip: I will continue to buy until Spider-Island. I’m not looking forward to that upcoming storyline.

Spider-Girl #1-3 by Paul Tobin, Clayton Henry, Tim Seeley, and Sergio Cariello
Since her introduction, Anya Corazon has gone from super-powered Arana to the completely human Spider-Girl. When Anya’s father is killed in a Red Hulk rampage, she’ll learn new things about her friends and become extended family to the Fantastic Four.

Good: Anya’s not just a great character but has a great supporting cast from a friend who lost her mother in a super-villain attack to Sue Richards. The writer prefers character development to action which allows you to take in Anya’s grief. It’s been a long time since a comic book made me cry.
Bad: No complaints here.
Buy/Skip: I’ve just ordered the first trade paperback and suggest you do the same….immediately.

Incredible Hulk #626 by Greg Pak and Tom Grummett
Betty Ross’ behavior is erratic and every transformation in to the Red She-Hulk is bringing her closer to not being able to change back. Unfortunately Betty has teamed up with Tyrannus to steal Pandora’s Box.

Good: I like that Bruce can mostly control his transformations.
Bad: Everything else. I don’t know who thought it was an awesome idea to turn Bruce’s entire supporting cast into Hulks, but they should be fired, then rehired, and fired again (because once doesn’t properly express my irritation).
Buy/Skip: Skip! Skip! Skippity doo dah. I got into Hulk during Pak’s amazing Planet Hulk and World War Hulk and got out before Hulk War (or whatever it was called). It looks like I got out in time.

Sigil #1-3 by Mike Carey and Leonard Kirk
Samantha Rey is a normal high school student whose birthmark turns out to be a Sigil of great power. Now that her mother is dead, it’s up to Sam to take her place as a cross-time champion. But first, Sam has to learn to wield the sigil, master time-travel, and pass her history test.

Good: Crossgen Comics is back and while the first incarnation of the character might have been a bit boring, Mike Carey has grounded the character and made her interesting. There is enough mysterious and interesting stuff here to keep my interest.
Bad: The girls who pick on Sam. It’s a little weird that they’re mad at her over some boy that doesn’t seem very special (it doesn’t even seem like he likes the bullies or that Sam likes him either – so why the problem?).
Buy/Skip: Buy the title. With Marvel bringing back the Crossgen line, this could be the start of something special and this is the ground floor.

X-23 #10-11 by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda
When Gambit feels Laura could use a familiar face, Wolverine joins them with Jubilee in tow. Laura and Jubilee work out their differences while the four of them look for someone selling a modified version of X-23’s trigger scent.

Good: X-23’s past is really tapped into and having Jubilee going through something similar is a rich, dramatic vein I haven’t seen tapped so well. The action is secondary to what X-23 is going through. I haven’t seen Gambit in a while and it is nice seeing him in the mentor role.
Bad: I don’t have any complaints.
Buy/Skip: On the strength of these issues I will be getting the trade paperback and any other trade paperback in this series to see what happened in the first few issues too.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Quick Movie Reviews: Scream 4, Thor, X-Men First Class and more

Sucker Punch
A lot of fantastic action sequences and a terrible story in Zack Snyder’s latest movie. Snyder not only directed by wrote the screenplay for this movie. Out of the four main girls in the film, only one survives and the story ends without explaining what happened. Scares me a little that Snyder is directing a new Superman film but at least he didn’t write it.

Good: Action sequences, beautiful girls, and great special effects
Bad: The story
Own It/See It/Pass: Not a movie I’d own but I might give it a second view only to see if I judged it too harshly. You should see it just so you can talk about it with your fellow geeks.

I had so much fun watching this film. It starts at Comic-Con, which I’ve attended every year for over 20 years, so I thought that was awesome. Paul has a great story, it’s funny, and it has plenty of sci-fi in-jokes (if you think, “Hey, is that a reference to…” – it is).

Good: Story, cast, special effects, and plenty of laughs
Bad: Based on their track record, the film makers won’t make a sequel
Own It/See it/Pass: Own it and show it to everyone

Scream 4
The survivors are back to take on another killing spree based on the rules of horror movie remakes. Scream 4 is a great addition to the franchise not just because it’s a sequel, but it’s also serves to reboot the franchise.

Good: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette are back. Kevin Williamson wrote the first film and is back to write this one and Wes Craven is at the helm again. This film has a lot of great cameos and a terrific main cast, the proper Scream-quota body count, and is a great introduction for a new generation of fans.
Bad: Any time you do a sequel to something, why does a happy couple from a previous movie spend most of the time fighting when you know they’re going to rekindle the romance by the end of the film (like Hellboy 2, National Treasure 2, etc.) – in this case Dewey and Gail (played by Courtney Cox & David Arquette).
Own It/See it/Pass: Now that the first 3 films are out on blu ray (they’ve been out of print for a long time on DVD), buy all four.

Another Marvel Comics flagship character makes it onto the big screen. The film, like all superhero movies, is an origin story. It starts with an arrogant, selfish Thor but by the end of the movie he learns humility and sacrifice in time to be worthy to wield his signature hammer and save the day. I’ve never been a Thor fan and I’ve never collected any of Thor’s books so I wasn’t expecting much but I was pleasantly surprised.

Good: Thor becoming the hero he was meant to be was fun to watch. The Warriors Three and Sif were steadfast and loyal friends. Asgard looked fantastic in the film. There was a great cameo from future Avenger, Hawkeye.
Bad: Does anyone else hate SHIED agent Coulson? Natalie Portman is wasted on the lukewarm love story between her character and Thor. I would have loved to see Portman as Sif.
Own It/See it/Pass: See it on the big screen and then add it to your blu ray collection. This is the forth film leading up to one of the most anticipated films in all of fandom’s history: The Avengers. This film is just as good as the other films and will hopefully lead to sequels.

Hangover II
The Wolfpack is back and funnier than ever. While most sequels try to break new ground or go in a different direction, this one sticks to the formula established in the first film: get drugged, wake up with a wild animal, lose a member of the Pack, hijinks ensue, run in with Mr. Chow, wedding, and photos for the credits.
Good: The originals are all back. While the film sticks to the formula of the first one, the humor remains unexpected and hilarious with plenty of twists and turns.
Bad: The Mike Tyson cameo. The cast had moral objections to a cameo by Mel Gibson but keep making films with a wife beater and convicted rapist. And the cameo wasn’t even funny.
Own It/See it/Pass: See it on the big screen. Even if you can’t hear all of the dialogue through the laughter, seeing it with a big crowd is great. If you own the first film, add this one to your shelf. If you don’t own the first film, chances are you won’t add this to your collection either. For that matter, if you didn’t like the first film, you won’t like this one either.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Captain Jack Sparrow is back for another helping of supernatural adventure in the forth film of the franchise. Jack is again entangled in the ambitions of pirates and armies both looking for the Fountain of Youth.

Good: Sparrow is one of the best film characters around. The action is great and it’s nice to see Barbosa and Gibbs again.
Bad: Sparrow is again just along for the ride while being used for information. Would have been great if it was Jack with his own crew again but he was just along for the ride in this one and didn’t play a big part in his own movie.
Own It/See it/Pass: Pass on it, I wish I had. If you’re not a huge fan of the original trilogy, this movie will be mildly entertaining at best. It wasn’t worth seeing and I won’t be adding this film to the blu ray shelf.

X-Men: First Class
The X-Men film franchise goes back to the beginning to tell the story of Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr’s friendship and eventual rivalry. The film shows the pair recruiting other mutants to battle a deadly group of mutants who are instigating a nuclear war between Russia and The United States.

Good: The origin of Charles and Erik and their friendship despite the differences in their beliefs. All of the nostalgia is in this film – the introduction of the Blackbird, the mansion as a headquarters, the creation of codenames for the recruits, how Magneto got his helmet, and a cameo by a popular mutant that proves this movie is a prequel and not a reboot.
Bad: I can’t think of anything.
Own It/See it/Pass: See it with your fellow geek. Rejoice in its awesomeness. This film fits perfectly in continuity with the first three X-films. I don’t know how well it fits with X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s continuity but I pretend that film doesn’t exist (it was horrible). Put it proudly on your blu ray shelf with the rest of the X-films.