Thursday, May 24, 2012

Figure Haul - GI Joe Retaliation, Amazing Spider-Man, and Dark Knight Rises

Yesterday I received bad news. Instead of talking about it, I’ll reprint the email from the GI Joe Club:

Hasbro Reaffirms 2012 Guidance that it Expects to Grow Revenues and Earnings Per Share Absent the Impact of Foreign Exchange

PAWTUCKET, R.I., MAY 23, 2012—Hasbro, Inc (NASDAQ:HAS), and Paramount Pictures, announced today that G.I. JOE: RETALIATION will now be released in 3D. The film, originally slated for release in June 2012, is scheduled to be released March 29, 2013.
 “It is increasingly evident that 3D resonates with movie-goers globally and together with Paramount, we made the decision to bring fans an even more immersive entertainment experience,” said Brian Goldner, Hasbro’s President and CEO.

“In 2012, we continue to have several strong motion picture and television entertainment backed properties that are selling well at retail and our entertainment strategy remains strong and on-track,” Goldner said.  “Through our own Hasbro Studios for television and in partnership with several movie studios including Paramount, Universal, Sony and Relativity, we are creating entertainment experiences around many of our highly popular iconic brands.

For the full year 2012, we continue to believe, absent the impact of foreign exchange, we will again grow revenues and earnings per share.” 

As bummed as I was that I wasn’t going to see Bruce Willis and The Rock tear it up on screen together while Snake Eyes and Jinx dissected numerous ninjas, I was just as bummed that I wouldn’t be seeing those awesome figures either.

A few weeks ago I discovered had an exclusive early-bird-like pack called the “GI Joe Retaliation Premiere Pack” which has Roadblock (the “Movie Likeness Debut” according to the box), Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, and Cobra Commander. I ordered it. It was awesome and made me more excited to see the actual figures.
 I had finals in Astronomy and Photoshop the following day (which would be today) but instead of running straight home from work and studying, I decided to stop at not one, but two Toys ‘R Us that happen to lie between work and home.

At the first Toys ‘R Us, I spotted Amazing Spider-Man movie figures. There wasn’t any figures in the movie series but I picked up Spidey in his black costume and Venom from the comic series. I also picked up a movie-accurate Batman from the Dark Knight Rises toy line.

 As far as the Amazing Spider-Man figures, the ones I saw and the ones on the back of the card that were already sold out, it looks like all the figures are either comic or concept series. The concept/comic stuff, like ‘Grappling Hook Spider-Man’ and ‘Hydro Attack Spider-Man’ is silly and best left in the Spider-Man figure collection along with such other weirdness as ‘Ninja Spidey’ and ‘Samurai Spidey.’

Spider-Man has a great history of various costumes to draw from. There was even that time Deathlok fixed him up with some gear (Spider-Man#21) and how about the recent Tron-inspired ‘Big Time’ Spidey uniform. And I’m yearning for the FF costume with the paper bag over his head with a ‘Kick Me’ sign on it. Instead of going to the comics for inspiration, Hasbro gives us figures that kids might like but will surely leave collectors out in the cold. Of course I don’t know what future waves might bring so I can only judge this first wave.

The Dark Knight Rises figures were all…stupid. With the rare exception of the small, movie-accurate Batman, the costume variations were as silly as previous Batman lines (and will probably sell as well as them too). The only bright spot I could see among the various figures was the Toys ‘R Us exclusive Batman vs Bane 2 pack. Missing from all the various Batman and Bane figures was any Catwoman figures. The backs of the packaging were no help either as they didn’t show other figures in the lines.

With three new figures in hand, I made my way up the road to another Toys ‘R Us closer to home. There were no Amazing Spider-Man or Dark Knight Rises figures. Instead, I found the first wave of GI Joe Retaliation figures – the figures I thought I’d have to wait until next year for.

The Cobra Trooper and Red Ninja figures were already gone (no doubt it’s someone working on their army builders) but I did get a hold of a black Cobra Commander variant, Roadblock, Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Zartan, and a GI Joe Trooper. I also snagged the GI Joe Ninja Dojo with has Night Ops Roadblock, Beachhead, and Kamakura. The figures look great and I can’t wait to find Cobra Troopers so I can try out the parachutes! I’m happy because it looks like delaying the film won’t delay the figures.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Quick Reviews: Avengers vs X-Men

New Avengers #25 by Brian Michael Bendis & Mike Deodato
Hundreds of years ago, The Master Yu Ti foresaw a redheaded girl who would wield the power of the Phoenix. He locates the redhead from his dreams and decides that she will be K’un Lun’s next Iron Fist.

GOOD: K’un Lun isn’t a corner of the Marvel Universe I get to visit much.

BAD: It’s part of an attempt to tie the Iron Fist to the Phoenix force. I have two problems: 1) if Danny was connected, where was he the last 20 times the Phoenix force wreaked havoc on the Earth and 2) if you repeatedly fight an omnipotent cosmic being that rarely kills anyone, how serious am I supposed to take the threat? Phoenix only seems to decimate inhabited worlds we’ve never heard of.

VERDICT: Another useless tweak to continuity that only muddles the mythology.

Avengers vs X-Men #1-3 by Ed Brubaker & John Romita Jr.
The Phoenix force is coming and the Avengers and the X-Men agree that it’s coming for Hope. But they disagree on each other’s course of action. Cyclops wants to see what happens while the Avengers want to keep the Phoenix away from Hope. So of course they’re going to throw down to see who gets their way.

GOOD: Nice to see dissenting opinions on each team and conversations like Iron Man asking Cap if taking down the X-Men is the right move.

BAD: It’s tough to buy the premise since the Phoenix force isn’t new to the Marvel Universe. If this was the first time it had been to Earth, I would agree with both teams and understand why they’re overreacting. Instead of the Avengers forming a plan, they should have gone to offer support to the X-Men. Even if they win and get Hope, they’re exhausting themselves and their resources (especially if one of them gets injured) and they’ll need all the help they can get if the Phoenix force tries to destroy the world. Also, I don’t like the drama with Wolverine and Cap kicking him off a Quinjet. It doesn’t make sense that, with the resident experts on the Phoenix force in the wind, you would willingly lose one of the last experts you had access to (he still has Beast).

VERDICT: It’s a crossover for no other reason than to have one. It doesn’t add to the mythology and pours another layer of crazy to the relationships of these characters that will be glossed over when a writer wants Iron Man to team up with the X-Men or the X-Men to appear in Captain America. I don’t know how it will end but here’s an early prediction – the Phoenix force will come, it will inhabit Hope, the Earth will be safe, and the Avengers and X-Men will shake hands and go their separate ways. Not interested. The first three were enough for me. I didn’t read Schism and I’m not reading this either. I’m still into Ultimate X-Men and Astonishing X-Men though.

VS: The Avengers vs The X-Men #1 by Kathryn & Stuart Immonen, Jason Aaron & Adam Kubert
This limited series goes deeper into the fights you don’t get to see in the main Avengers vs X-Men issues. In this issue, Iron Man battles Magneto and Thing goes toe-to-fin with Namor.

GOOD: Iron Man vs Magneto was a really interesting read. Even though Tony came prepared to handle Magneto, Magneto still has a lot of surprises up his sleeve. It was a good fight and, considering Tony came prepared, it ended how it should have.

BAD: Thing vs Namor? Seriously? We needed a deeper view into a battle that has been fought over and over again over the last 50 years? I can’t think of two older enemies or a more uninteresting fight. It would have been awesome to see Magik take Strange out on her turf but we got Thing vs Namor instead. Oh, and some of the “AvX Fun Facts” were informative but the ones meant to be funny undercut how grave the battles were supposed to be in light of what was at stake.

VERDICT: It’s an okay attempt at a tie-in mini that’s not another boring ‘Frontline’ mini. Some of the fights could be really fun but considering this issue, I would expect a 50/50 chance of enjoying one of the stories in each issue.

Quick Reviews

Avengers Assemble #1-2 by Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley
The movie-lineup roster of Avengers goes up against a group known as the Zodiac.

GOOD: Bendis & Bagley are consistently amazing together. Bendis writes a story that easily teams the movie lineup of Avengers without making it seem forced and while making that story actually exist in the mainstream Marvel Universe continuity. Mark Bagley effortlessly delivers page after page of fantastic artwork (what else is new?).

BAD: Nothing yet.

VERDICT: It’s a little lighter in tone from the other Avenger titles on the stand which makes it stand out to me. It might be a new fan’s gateway to the Marvel Universe. It’s a fun read and I look forward to picking up the trade paperback.

Amazing Spider-Man #683 by Dan Slott & Stefano Caselli
Spidey and the Avengers go up against the Sinister Six and come up short.

GOOD: Spidey punching ‘Al Gore’ and the many cool gadgets in his armor.

BAD: These aren’t fair criticisms since this is part 2 of an arc I don’t have part 1 of. I didn’t know how Spidey got armor or how Doctor Octopus is holding Earth hostage.

VERDICT: I will get this TPB. The Avengers vs The Sinister Six with Doc Ock dying? Dan Slott usually doesn’t disappoint and I bet, in context, this issue will be great when read with part 1.

Avengers Academy #27-28 by Christos Gage & Karl Moline
Chase’s psychic connection to Old Lace is active but the team saw her die. The Runaways’ search for Old Lace takes them to Avengers Academy and to another dimension. But if Henry Pym and Tigra have their way, the juveniles of the group will be taken away to be raised somewhere safe.

GOOD: I’ve loved the Runaways since their first appearance. While they pop up in books around the Marvel Universe, the stories vary in quality. While the story might first appear pretty standard, when Henry and Tigra argue with the team about taking Molly & Klara away, Reptil suggests Nico use magic to make everyone there understand everyone else’s point of view. This leads to the last 10 pages of #28 packing a lot of emotional impact and giving each team a deep connection one another. And I love that Old Lace is back – she’s all Chase had to remember Gertrude by. It’s a great story and one all Runaways fans should read.

BAD: I’m not generally an Avengers Academy fan so at first I only cared that the Runaways were in it (though between this and X-23’s appearance, Avengers Academy has been pretty good and might deserve a serious look).

VERDICT: I’m absolutely getting the TPB volume that includes this story.

Supurbia #1 by Grace Randolph & Russell Dauterman
A neighborhood of superheroes, secret identities, and scandalous secrets.

GOOD: Great introduction to all the various characters who skew their archetypical roles (like Batsu, a Wonder Woman-like warrior who is serious, deadly, and raising three normal children).

BAD: Nothing yet.

VERDICT: I think it’ll be worth getting a few more before deciding on getting the TPB. I like regular superhero books but I also like a little soap opera drama and, in the absence of Noble Causes, this book is poised to take its place.

Fairest #1 by Bill Willingham & Phil Jimenez
Ali Baba, Prince of Thieves, discovers a bottle but instead of a genie, it contains a bottle imp. When the imp promises to locate treasure, he directs Ali Baba to a camp full of goblins where he must wake a sleeping woman with a kiss.

GOOD: A few Firefly references were very welcome. A good, solid story that was very entertaining.

BAD: I quit Fables long ago – that means I got bored of it. But this book is good which means I might have to re-explore Fables. And that could be expensive.

VERDICT: Good story + Adam Hughes cover = I’ll pick up the next few issues.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #6 by Scott Lobdell & Kenneth Rocafort
When Red Hood is hurt on a mission, a mysterious orange woman helps him recover. This is the story of how Red Hood meets Starfire.

GOOD: Great story and dialogue. A fun first meeting between 2 heroes that doesn’t start out in a misunderstanding where the two fight each other which is a nice change of pace. The story really dives into who these two are people and how they relate to their pasts.

BAD: I was initially pretty irritated at the first two issues of this series. I thought Starfire was badly written and severely mishandled. I was obviously mistaken.

VERDICT: It might be worth picking up the first TPB of the series to give this series a fair look. It might be that I’ve overlooked a fantastic title (it wouldn’t be the first time).

Daredevil #10 by Mark Waid & Paolo Rivera
The Mole Man empties a cemetery looking for the body of a woman he once knew. Unfortunately for him, one of those bodies is Matt Murdock’s father.

GOOD: Good story that stays true to Matt’s core values, emphasizing justice and law over revenge.

BAD: For a guy who commands all kinds of fearsome creatures, Mole Man is mostly alone. And his fighting skills are almost Daredevil-level? WTF?

VERDICT: I’ve been hearing great things about this title and this story suggests I should pick up a few more issues and give it a chance.

The New Avengers #24 by Brian Michael Bendis, Mike Deodato, and Will Conrad
The Avengers #25 by Brian Michael Bendis and Walt Simonson
The Avengers & The X-Men are about to have throw down in a big way. These two issues delve into life right before everything hits the fan.

GOOD: Good stories.

BAD: It sucks that a lot of the Avengers/New Avengers tie in issues don’t have much to do with the main event. If it starts with the Avengers about to go at The X-Men or in mid-battle and then cuts away for some side adventure that has nothing to do with the event on the cover, it’s irritating.

VERDICT: I’m a huge fan of both titles and will still get the hardcovers, I just wish during the actual events, the stories were more about that event. Actually, I wish Marvel would take a year off from ‘events’ and get back to telling stories.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Avengers Movie Review

I saw The Avengers today. I’ve been waiting a long time to see this movie. It was written and directed by Joss Whedon and featured a lot of great characters in one film together.

It was incredible. Go see it.

Nuff said.

May the Fourth and other geek holidays

Today is the magical day known as May the fourth as in “May the fourth be with you.” Unfortunately I didn’t do anything Star Wars-centric today (I saw the awesome Avengers film today (opening day) and if you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already seen its awesomeness).

Since May the fourth last year, I’ve compiled a small list of other potential geek holidays. Some are pretty good and I was really reaching with others. See if you can come up with your own.

4/1 – The A-Team (It’s April Fool’s Day and BA said ‘fool’ a lot)
4/7 – Alias (While the number 47 is prominent in a lot of JJ Abrams’ work, I loved Alias)
5/2 – DC Comics (For 52 Earths, number of issues in the weekly 52 series, and how many #1 books DC released during their initial relaunch)
5/4 – Star Wars (May the Fourth)
5/5 – Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Faith was Five by Five)
6/16 – Marvel Comics (The mainstream Marvel Universe exists on Earth-616)
10/4 – Dukes of Hazzard (They used CB radios a lot and used the code 10-4 a lot)
10/5 – Dark Angel (Because Max was a series X5)