Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Toys R Us Exclusive Star Wars Vintage Millennium Falcon

I'm riding on a renewed wave of interest in Star Wars. I've added the new "Star Wars" from Dark Horse Comics featuring the original cast to my pull list, I'm re-reading the complete run of Star Wars Legacy, and I'm taking time to look at Star Wars figures at Toys R Us instead of blowing right past them on the way to Marvel Universe figures.

I was in Toys R Us the other day when I came around a corner and almost ran right into their newest exclusive: The Vintage Millennium Falcon. I was really excited until I saw the price: $250. I looked the box over and I was trying to figure out if it was the Millennium Falcon that could fit four figures in the cockpit. The box said it came with 2 figures but didn't say which ones. A $250 dollar Millennium Falcon isn't an impulse buy so I left the store empty handed.

I checked the internet for information but toysrus.com had an extremely vague description of the toy. I had to go to other news sites to see what they were saying about it. It was the huge Falcon they had a few years ago for the Legacy series and came with the same two figures: Han and Chewie.

According to the internet, this is a re-release of the Legacy collection’s Millennium Falcon which has:

* Light-up headlights and loads of electronic vehicle and weapon sounds – engine boost, cruise mode, fly-by, firing cannons, and more

* Opening, light-up cockpit can fit up to 4 figures. Vehicle includes Han Solo and Chewbacca and can hold up to 18 figures

* Remove outer panels to access the ship’s interior, then head for the medical bay to treat wounded Rebels

* Secret smuggling compartments to hide from Stormtroopers

* Boarding ramp with auto-opening action, deployment sounds and landing lights

* Pivoting gunner station to target Imperial fighters

* Light-up hyperdrive lights and authentic movie phrases and sounds from favorite characters: Han, Luke, Obi-Wan, C-3PO, Chewbacca and R2-D2

* Rotating laser turret fires 2 missiles and makes weapon sounds; ship also features a 3-missile launcher with blasting sounds, and a cannon that launches a “laser” missile

* Missile-firing mini-fighter fits inside an opening docking bay that makes electronic boarding and flight sounds

* Pivoting training probe makes lightsaber and movement sounds – learn the power of the Force

* Illuminated Dejarik table with holographic creatures – let the Wookiee win

The Millennium Falcon however, isn't just my favorite spaceship of all time, it's also something I had as a kid (the smaller version). Still, I regretted not getting the Legacy version the first time around so I was determined not to miss out on this. I had a coupon for 20% off one item at the store so I went and bought the Millennium Falcon for $200. Last year I bought the deluxe AT-AT which I'd never owned as a kid so for those of you who are counting (Just me? That's cool.) that's two Star Wars vehicles I have now. I'm even thinking about getting the Target exclusive Landspeeder on ebay.

Yes, I'm excited about Star Wars again and I imagine that I'm not alone.

IDW's Angel and Spike Collected editions - a quick review of all of them

By my count there were 17 collected editions of IDW stories featuring the crew from Angel. I decided to reread them then I decided I should review them because I never did the first time around.

Angel: After the Fall Volume 1 by Joss Whedon, Brian Lynch, and Franco Urro

Beginning months after the final episode of Angel, we find that Wolfram & Hart sent Los Angeles to Hell. That isn’t the only huge change masterfully handled by Brian Lynch. This volume is packed with twists and turns: Angel is human, Wes is an intangible emissary for Wolfram & Hart, Gunn is a vampire, Spike has taken up Angel’s role as champion, and Illyria and Lorne are both ‘lords’ of their respective territories.

Angel is doing his best to protect humans and find a way to pull Los Angeles out of Hell. He kills the son of a Lord and decides that instead of waiting for the father to take his revenge, Angel challenges all the Lords for control of Los Angeles. Angel doesn’t ask his friends for help but it turns out he doesn’t need to as the gang (sans Gunn) reunite to help Angel beat back the forces of evil once again. Meanwhile Gunn is plotting something big.

Good: We get to see Angel, Wes, Gunn, Lorne, Illyria, Spike, Connor, Nina, Gwen, and even Groo. The story is great, and the way the characters act feels like the show.

Bad: The artwork. I know Urro was handpicked, but it’s not great to look at. In one panel, where Gunn is looking at a photo, you can’t tell which character is Fred and which one is Cordelia.

Angel: After the Fall Volume 2: First Night by Joss Whedon, Brian Lynch, David Messina, Stephen Mooney, John Byrne, Nick Runge, Fabio Mantorani, Kevin Schmidt, Scott Tipton, and Mirco Pierfedericic

Brian Lynch shows us what happens to Angel, Wes, Gunn, Lorne, Illyria, Spike, Connor, Gwen, and Kate on their first night in Hell. For all the twists and turns in the first volume, we learn how Angel discovered he was human, Lorne helped make Silverlake a utopia, and what Connor and Gwen were doing the moment everything went to Hell.

Good: The best story was Lorne’s, done all in rhyming verses but Gwen’s was great too. I appreciated Gwen getting a little attention since she was a character I wished we’d seen more on the show. I loved Wes ‘going to Heaven’ to be reunited with Fred and seeing it for a Wolfram & Hart trick. Wes was always the smart one (except for that one time with kidnapping Connor and stuff).

Bad: Some stuff is just extraneous and didn’t need a back story. Concerning the “Civilians” chapter, Kevin Schmidt’s art is horrible and the story’s not that great.

Angel: After the Fall Volume 3 by Joss Whedon, Brian Lynch, and David Messina, Stephen Mooney, and Nick Runge

Team Angel defeats the Lords of Los Angeles. Now that they’ve been reunited they need a place to go since Gunn blew up the offices of Wolfram & Hart (in volume 1) so they set up shop at the Hyperion. Angel is back on the trail of a vampire sitting on a lot of power. Unfortunately, that path leads directly to Gunn who is convinced he has visions from the Powers-That-Be and wants revenge on Angel for not saving him from being turned. While Spike and Connor try to get past Gwen who has cut a deal, Gunn gets his revenge. Close to death, Angel has an out-of-body experience and is reunited with Cordelia who wants to make his passing easier.

Good: Gwen a traitor? Nice twist. It’s always great to see Cordelia and there’s a lot of great stuff with Wes and Illyria.

Bad: Nothing. This volume perfectly capitalizes on the storylines introduced in the first volume.

Angel: After the Fall Volume 4 by Joss Whedon, Brian Lynch, Stephen Mooney, and Franco Urro

Wolfram & Hart believe that Angel is prophesied to be evil’s MVP. Sending Los Angeles to Hell was more about Angel watching Connor, his friends, and his city suffer than it was about killing Angel. In fact, the Lords of Hell were under strict orders not to kill Angel. They even made him human so he’d be a less effective hero. What they didn’t count on was Gunn taking him to the precipice of death so Wolfram & Hart throws everything they’ve got at Team Angel to rescue their future MVP.

A mostly restored Angel has to then take on the most powerful being in Hell: Illyria. With Connor, his friends, and innocents dying all around him, Angel comes up with a solution that gets Los Angeles out of Hell. While the remnants of Team Angel keep Wolfram & Hart’s demons away, Angel uses Gunn’s hatred of him to get Gunn to kill him.

Wolfram & Hart cannot let Angel die so they pull Angel from the time stream during that epic battle at the end of season five and before they went to Hell. Not only does Team Angel remember everything in Hell but so do the citizens of Los Angeles. Angel saves Gunn from being turned and is reunited with a Connor who now remembers everything about his life. In the midst of Angel’s newfound notoriety (most people in Los Angeles know who he is because they saw him in Hell) he restarts Angel Investigations and gets back to the business of helping the helpless.

Good: So many moments in this volume. There’s a panel where Team Angel is walking toward the reader and Angel says “Cue the music.” There are two great scenes with Connor: one while he’s dying and one when he’s reunited with Angel. One of the extras the original outline for issue #1 and overview of the series that Brian Lynch gave Joss. The difference between that first proposal and what you see are a lot different but make for an interesting read.

Bad: Angel gives Groo his dragon. Exactly where does Groo take a dragon and a Pegasus where they won’t stand out? And Angel’s “Cue the music” moment would have been cooler if the artwork was better.

Angel Volume 5: Aftermath by Joss Whedon, Kelly Armstrong, Dave Ross, and Stefano Martino

While Spike, Gunn, Illyria, and Lorne go their own way, Angel assembles a new team to fight the forces of evil. Angel, Connor, and Kate are joined by redemption-seeking Gwen, the mysterious Dez, and the real-life angel, James. Angels are on earth doing a little demon clean-up but step over the line with they kill helpless humans. (IS THAT TRUE? CHECK AGAIN)

Good: I like meeting new and interesting characters and seeing them interact and bond with established characters. Dez and James both have unique origins that I haven’t seen in the Whedonverse. Plenty of laughs as Angel and Kate (the founding members of this incarnation of Angel Investigations) try to figure out how to screen jobs as they keep falling into ambushes and plots to get Angel’s autograph.

Bad: Nothing. Great characterizations, great stories, and interesting new characters made reading this volume a lot of fun.

Angel Volume 6: Last Angel in Hell by Brian Lynch, Franco Urru, Juliet Landau, and Stephen Mooney

In this volume, Non, a former Lord of Hell, restores Gunn to full health and has to face Illyria over what happened between them in Hell. Fortunately for Gunn, they’re both seeking a better understanding of who they are post-Hell. This single-issue story leads directly into the “Angel: Still Human” mini series. Drusilla is in a psyche hospital where some of the employees know she’s a vampire. The flaming sword that killed Angel in Hell is being auctioned at a sci-fi convention in San Diego. Suspecting that a winner will be someone who wants to kill him, he travels to San Diego with Groo and runs into Spike. Together they have to not only kill demons but keep the convention goers safe when they become the characters that they’re dressed as. And we get to read the adaptation of “Last Angel in Hell,” Hollywood’s film about what happened in Hell.

Good: I like the standalone issue that leads into the “Angel: Still Human” mini-series. The stuff with Angel and Spike at the sci-fi convention is funny but when Spike becomes Angel (thanks to a spell) the funny gets cranked up to, “I’m crying, please stop, it hurts.” Groo is consistently hilarious here. It could be that the two issues with Angel and Spike at the convention are the two best issues of the series.

Bad: Juliet Landau helps pen a tale that made me flip back and forth between pages as I tried to understand what was going on. The flashbacks were confusing and when the demon army comes for her at the end, I don’t understand why they attacked her or if she died (is she supposed to be in heaven at the end?).

Angel Volume 1: Immortality For Dummies by Bill Willingham, Brian Denham, Bill Williams, and David Messina

When Angel is captured by an evil corporation bent on using his blood to create vampires, Connor takes control of Angel Investigations. With his father missing, a mysterious army of women who claim they are his army, the return of Gunn, Illyria, and Spike to Team Angel’s ranks, Connor may have bitten off more than he can handle which will result in Gunn quitting the team. And Eddie Hope is a blue devil hunting down people who he has a score to settle with from his days in Hell.

Good: Finally Gunn says all the things to Connor that Connor-hating Angel fans have been wanting to say for a long time. Angel has a very uncomfortable conversation with Illyria Laura Kay Weathermill is an interesting addition to the Angel team and has a Watcher background. Great art throughout from Brian Denham & David Messina.

Bad: Dez and James get very little to do and are virtually ignored by the established characters.

Angel Volume 2: The Crown Prince Syndrome by Bill Willingham, David Tischman, Mariah Huchner, and Elena Casagrande

It turns out that James isn’t an angel and he wants Team Angel dead. A soul eating demon goes after the team and reveals that Spike has no soul and kills Dez before being killed. And Eddie Hope goes after Gunn for his crimes in Hell and Angel Investigations comes to the rescue.

Good: Great final fight at the end with all of Team Angel including Gunn.

Bad: After a great introduction in volume 5 and being almost virtually ignored through 2 more volumes, James is a villain and Dez is dead. These last few volumes have suffered through different writers who seem to focus strictly on the characters who appeared on TV instead of embracing all of the characters on the team. And Anne, a character who appeared on Buffy a few times (she was the vampire worshipper who got stuck in a demon dimension with Buffy and appeared over on Angel where she runs a teen shelter) dies. James pops in and has minions kill everyone in her teen center. The killing happens ‘off screen’ so she’s either dead or playing host to a demon that will have to be killed later. And no Groo? What’s up with that?

Angel Volume 3: The Wolf, The Ram, and The Heart by Mariah Huehner, David Tischman, Elena Casagrande, Stephen Mooney, and Jason Armstrong

Angel leaves Connor in charge of Angel Investigations and heads off into the sunset only to be ripped out of the timeline by Wolfram & Hart. Angel finds the future Los Angeles has become a collection a demon breeding farms and humans are the bottom of the food chain. Angel locates Illyria, the one person who can send him back to the past and help him stop James once and for all.

Good: The IDW series is over.

Bad: Darrow (a lawyer for Wolfram & Heart) starts as a powerful, jerk of a character who becomes a nice guy as he’s dying. After Rowant kills James, she tells Angel he’ll be in charge of Los Angeles. With a ‘god’ more powerful than James standing five feet from Angel, he asks Illyria to send him back through time and leaves without conflict. Connor’s new power allows him to take Anne’s pregnancy and transfer it to James to kill him. How about Connor’s new power in general? What does it do? What is it? This is a lousy story with too simple (or convenient) a solution to a promising premise.

Angel: Only Human by Scott Lobdell & David Messina

Illyria and Gunn are trying to sort themselves out post-‘After the Fall’ when Fred’s parents call to say her Uncle has passed away. Illyria and Gunn travel to Fred’s birthplace and Gunn finds himself between the Scourge and the Stygian demons they’re trying to kill while Illyria battles an old enemy who has a portion of her power thanks to the same mutari generator that took that power from her.

Good: The story was great from start to finish. The beginning reminds you of the things that happened between Gunn and Fred and his involvement in making Illyria possible. Gunn has always been one of the most badass members of the Angel team (he’s the guy who TWICE willingly put on a charm that caused him to get the heart ripped out of his chest every day) and this series reminds you why. Illyria is a compelling character made more interesting because the Team Angel can’t help but see Fred in her. The mini series is pitch perfect and Scott Lobdell should be doing more stuff in the Buffy/Angel universe.

Bad: Scott Lobdell should be writing more stories in the Whedonverse – he obviously loves the source material.

Spike: After the Fall by Brian Lynch & Franco Urru

Spike survived Wolfram & Hart’s siege only to find himself and Los Angeles in hell. The events of this mini series occur before the first issue of Angel: After the Fall.

Spike has been reunited with Illyria and together they’re rescuing and rounding up human survivors. Illyria keeps slipping back into the more vulnerable Fred so Spike tries to keep her Illyria. But when Non and her demon army show up, Spike is captured and tortured for over a month while Non sucks the life-force from his human followers. By the end, Spike has killed Non, freed her demon army, reunited with Connor, and lost every one of his human followers.

Good: Brian Lynch has a great grip on the characters, their personalities, and it seems like he wrote this before the first issue of Angel: After the Fall. This TPB isn’t just a companion to the main series, it’s the beginning of it and you should read it. Jeremy proves to be a fun character and his death is a true Whedon-inspired tragedy.

Bad: Spike kills vampire Hugh Heffner – RIP.

Spike Vol 1: Alone Together Now by Brian Lynch, Franco Urru, and Nicola Zanni

To tackle Las Vegas’ many demons and the local branch of Wolfram & Hart, Spike assembles a team: Betta George, Beck, Groosalugg, Cordelia the Dragon, a possessed Jeremy Johns, and…Drusilla??

Along the way, they save Twi-hards, battle a demon made of Elvis impersonators, and burn the Wolfram & Hart building to the ground. During Spike’s battle at Wolfram & Hart, he runs into John, a ruthless killer whose soul was taken to give to Spike. When the group makes their escape they discover there’s an invisible barrier keeping them in. So while the team lays low and regroups, Spike decides to add another member to the team: Willow.

Good: Brian Lynch takes full advantage of the character’s histories and many in-jokes. For example, Spike tries to call Angel at one point and the caller ID identifies him as Captain Forehead. And Brian Lynch perfectly sums the character’s complex history up in two pages and shows a “Twilight”-like movie that was made where the main vampire character was modeled after Spike. Franco Urru and Nicola Zanni’s art was fantastic. Urru’s artwork has either grown on me or the inker is really good at making his pencils work.

It’s good to see Jeremy again even if he’s being possessed by one of Wolfram & Hart’s demons. I don’t know who Beck is but I’m liking her. Groo is always a welcome sight because almost everything out of his mouth is hilarious. And Spike’s reunion with Dru was passionate and unexpected. But with their complicated history, I guess Spike wouldn’t just kill her as soon as he saw her.

Bad: Nothing. Brian Lynch makes great use of the characters and the mythology to craft a story that’s fun and further adds to the mythology.

Spike Vol 2: Stranger Things by Brian Lynch, Stephen Mooney, and Franco Urru

The Las Vegas branch of Wolfram & Hart rallies under Lilah Morgan’s leadership and change tack. Instead of continuing their efforts on Earth, the senior partners would like an spacecraft capable of interdimensional transport – and they get it. Meanwhile, Spike’s team is joined by Willow in time to take on John. But John has created a seal that when stepped on, removes a person’s soul. Willow tells Spike that the owner of the soul gets to decide who gets the soul and he chooses Drusilla. With Drusilla in incredible mental anguish, she gets back on the seal and gives Spike the soul back. Then Spike meets the bugs.

Good: Willow and Spikes reunion and their goodbyes were great. It’s a nice reminder that, with everything else going on in these character’s lives, there was always time for quality, meaningful interaction. There’s some nice stuff with Willow and Dru when she first gets the soul and is freaking out and Willow holds her. Spike is a certified bad ass who should have his own series.

Bad: It’s over. While I was happy that Dark Horse was uniting all the Buffy-verse characters under one roof, Brian Lynch is a genius with the Angel characters and great at introducing new characters. When Spike is standing on the seal carrying Dru, the seal is all pixilated like it was blown up to a size that was too large. It should have been drawn or at least cleaned up.

Spike: The Devil You Know by Bill Williams, Chris Cross, and Marc Deering

When a night on the town for Spike turns into an assassination attempt, he goes looking for answers. Tansy Fry, a vampire Spike is acquainted with from his days running with Angel, Darla, and Drusilla has resurfaced with a plan to open Hellmouths large enough to allow demons to come through but not big enough to attract Slayers and she plans to keep moving and opening Hellmouths from city to city. Tansy has an army but it’s not enough to keep Spike, joined by Eddie Hope, from closing her franchise before it beings.

Good: Eddie Hope and Spike have a lot of great dialogue as they go through the adventure together and watch each other’s backs. While they might not be best friends, they have a lot in common. The writing and the art were on point here.

Bad: When Eddie becomes a demon the tail rips out the back of his pants so when he changes back from human he changes pants. At one point he says he’s staying in demon form because he’s out of pants. Then a demon attacks and for no reason he changes back to a human. He tries to attack the demon but he’s swatted. Flying through the air you can clearly see his pants are intact in the back – what happened to the hole the tail left? Then he changes back to demon to help Spike out. It was just a weird moment where I thought, “Did the artist make the mistake changing him back to human and the writer had to go with it?”

Angel: Blood & Trenches by John Byrne

Angel reads a newspaper article about bodies being drained of blood in Europe and sees a drawing of the symbols found. Angel pokes around and discovers the symbol belongs to Kakistos. Kakistos is taking advantage of World War 1 by cutting a deal with the Kaiser and using the war as cover to recruit and feed. In order to stop him, Angel has to deal with soldiers who have had to defend themselves against vampires and know how to kill them, dodge a team of Watchers led by Geoffrey Wyndam-Price, and kill scores of vampires.

Good: The artwork in this book is all pencils with the only color being red blood. For John Byrne fans this is a unique book because of that. Usually all artwork is inked. And it’s cool to see Angel in action without the mention of atonement. Of course for people who aren’t fans, Angel kills vampires for no apparent reason. While the vampires talk about his history, there’s no clear accounting of his history. But since I’m a fan, I didn’t need the reminder.

Bad: The story jumps around a little bit and while it tells you things like “a week ago” you lose track of the time period as it either shows you a few weeks ago or a few hours ago. You can do jump back to periods before Angel got to Europe, but once there jumping around during his adventure in Europe gets confusing.

Illyria: Haunted by Scott Tipton, Mariah Huehner, and Elena Casagrande

Illyria is confused. She was once a god worshipped by thousands and able to slaughter anything that got in her way. Now she’s trapped in a shell with only a fraction of her power and all of Spike and Wesley’s memories of Fred in her head. She has no clear purpose in the world and no way to get back her former glory. Spike suggests she visit the Deeper Well which was her prison for so long. She gains some clarity of purpose in time to take on an ‘old one’ who she inadvertently helps escape from the Deeper Well.

Good: A lot of great stuff with Illyria trying to come to terms with her place in the world. There’s a really nice dream sequence with her and Spike where they are drawn in but all of the backgrounds are drawn in crayon. The artwork is some of the best in the Angel series and so is the vibrant color throughout. It’s good to see Illyria treated as a character and not something that delivers threats or literal statements because she doesn’t have anything to do in a story.

Bad: Her narration square is pink until she touches a gem in her old cell. Suddenly the narration square is blue and she’s thinking that she suddenly understands. What was the gem and what did it show her that made her whole?

Fallen Angel: Reborn by Peter David and J.K. Woodward

Illyria is trapped by a weak shell in a dimension in which she isn’t the all-powerful entity she used to be. When a stranger offers a way to get that power back, Illyria goes on a journey to find her two scythes and helmet. With those three items reunited, Illyria will be restored. When Illyria travels to Bete Noire she meets/fights with Fallen Angel and her son. Fallen Angel is forced into an uneasy alliance with Illyria while trying to convince her that being restored to her former glory will mean destruction for the Earth. But with all the pieces assembled, Illyria decides if she becomes what she was, everything will be the way it was when what she really wants is change. She destroys the helmet.

Good: The painted art was a nice change – I don’t see painted art very often. A nice addition to Illyria’s story, by crushing the helmet she eliminates any possibility of being the all-powerful god she used to be. I liked the dynamic between Illyria and Fallen Angel as they tried to get along on the way to uniting the three items.

Bad: I didn’t know anything about Fallen Angel going in but this story didn’t really endear me to any of them. I didn’t get a sense of who that character was and I didn’t get a clear indication of what her mission was in Bete Noir.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Archer & Armstrong and Bloodshot #1-3 review

Archer & Armstrong #1-3 by Fred Van Lente, Clayton Henry, and Matt Milla

Over ten thousand years ago, Armstrong’s brother Ivar activated The Boon – an instrument of the Gods that supposedly granted eternal life – to save their brother Gilad (old-school Valiant readers know Gilad as The Eternal Warrior). The Boon ended the world. Since then, Armstrong hid the six pieces of The Boon but various sects have been trying to put it all together for thousands of years.

Meanwhile Archer is a kid raised in an amusement park with more than a dozen foster kids all being trained to be warriors. When Archer is unleashed on the world to kill Armstrong, he’ll discover that his parents are evil and that Armstrong is a hero trying to keep a very dangerous weapon from being used for evil.

The original pull to this series was the contrast between the honorable but na├»ve Archer and the boisterous and inappropriate Armstrong. The first issue sets this relationship up and #2 and #3 do a great job showing these characters trading really funny lines. Archer and Armstrong’s motivations and missions are clearly laid out and both characters are likable. And who doesn’t like watching “nunjas” get smacked down.

Another welcome addition to the Valiant reboot.

Bloodshot #1-3 by Duane Swierczynski, Manuel Garcia, and Arturo Lozzi

Bloodshot is a nanite-infused super soldier who leaves his loving family’s side to go on one last mission to save his friend. When Bloodshot winds up in the hands of the man who helped create him, he learns that his life is actually many lives preprogrammed in his brain so that his handlers can change the channel to whatever scenario they need to motivate him. Driven crazy by the memories of many different sets of wives and children, Bloodshot is looking for answers.

Bloodshot was always a violent title but the first book does a great job introducing Bloodshot’s mission and putting him through his paces. When the character is parachuting down for a job and gets fatally injured I think we’re about to see the story of a guy who is dead or close to death who gets experimented on until he’s unrecognizable and can’t ever see his family again. Instead, the nanites are already a part of him and rebuild him even when he’s fatally injured. Bloodshot is already Bloodshot. The twist comes when you find out that the man with the loving family has multiple sets of families and that none of them truly exist.

With a full memory of his many lives, Bloodshot’s brain processes information from the nanties by showing him various family members who always appear to tell him what the nanites detect. It’s a nice touch to give Bloodshot the information while rubbing salt in the wounds. The first issue of the book’s front inside cover describes what various abilities the nanites give Bloodshot as well as their possible weaknesses.

The first three issues deliver a few mysteries. Is Kuretich, who downloaded all of Bloodshot’s memories and gave Bloodshot access to them, really a bad guy or is he trying to do the right thing by exposing Project Rising Spirit. Once Pulse gets free, is she going to be on Bloodshot’s side (she thought Bloodshot was dead and it didn’t seem to bother her and she encourages killing him – but her expression is horrified when he gets shot).

Overall, Valiant is building a universe and Bloodshot is a welcome addition.

Disney purchases Lucasfilm

One of the best things about being a geek is that people come to you when they hear something on the news. For example, when people heard that Disney bought Marvel, people came to me for what I thought about it. That’s happened more and more frequently with DC rebooting its universe, a gay Green Lantern, a black Spider-Man, and Disney buying Star Wars.

I love Star Wars.

While I fully acknowledge that the prequels mostly sucked, I didn’t want Star Wars to go away. To Lucas’ credit, the prequels made a ton of money and because the movies weren’t well-received, he didn’t make more. He could have pumped out more movies and made a lot more money but he preferred quality to quantity. Lucas didn’t set out to make the prequels suck but once the first one was done, he had to finish that trilogy whether the story was sub-standard or not.

I’m excited about Disney’s purchase of Star Wars for a few reasons.

First, Disney has access to a lot of great writers who can craft well-told stories. Say what you want about John Carter, the movie was fantastic. I don’t think the previews did the job of selling the movie to audiences and the only reason I saw it was because a friend really wanted to see it. Oh, and Disney hired Joss Whedon to write and direct The Avengers – ‘nuff said (as Stan Lee would say).

Second, Disney has proven longevity which is great for a number of reasons. Not only do they have the ability to put the next three movies out, one day I have no doubt they’ll redo the original trilogy. I know this won’t be a popular opinion but I’d love to see Luke, Han, and Leia in a reboot of the original trilogy with the story updated. I’d love for the prequels, the original trilogy, and the next three movies to be completely done by Disney. I know Harrison Ford, Mark Hammil, and the rest are willing to come back for a new movie, but I don’t want to see them. I want a fresh start for the trilogy and if we’re talking about a new movie every two years, it would take almost twenty years to tell that story so they should start now!

Third, the new movies will doubtlessly introduce new characters and those new characters will be immortalized as action figures – figures I might have to own if they’re cool enough. Of course those new characters may also find their way into comic books, video games, and the novels. I’m anxious to meet new characters.

Fourth – and this is someone else’s observation (I can’t remember where I read it) but we can look forward to Star Wars cartoons that look like Disney animated films. Imagine retelling the original Star Wars movie in a more lighthearted way with animated Luke and Leia singing about swinging across the chasm. And…Princess Leia joins Disney’s other female characters (as pictured below).

But the best part of Disney buying Lucasfilm is the continuation of the Star Wars Universe. I agree that the prequels sucked and Lucas had essentially retired and wasn’t going to do anything but the Clone Wars cartoon and occasionally letting Family Guy or Robot Chicken do Star Wars themed episodes. I wasn’t ready to live in a world where there was no more Star Wars films to look forward to and now I don’t have to.

Now for what I’ll miss about George Lucas: he rewards his fans. A movie like Fanboys doesn’t exist without George Lucas sanctioning the film. Lucas was one of the first to use fan films as an opportunity to encourage people to play with the characters in his universe and was known to recruit people from those films. The most famous might be Kevin Rubio who filmed “Troops” which was a parody of Cops and he went on to write lots of stuff for Lucasfilm. And who can forget Steve Sansweet, a fan who had amassed an impressive amount of Star Wars memorabilia who would go from fan to the Director of Content Management and Head of Fan Relations of Lucasfilms.

And who can forget Katie Johnson? When the founder of the 501st Legion’s little girl was dying of brain cancer, the fans build a pink droid and called it R2-KT. Lucas sold a limited run of the action figure for charity and the droid appeared in the film Star Wars: Clone Wars. As much as we’ve been impacted by Lucas, he’s been impacted by the fans and he hasn’t been completely deaf to fandom.

Now that Disney owns Lucasfilm, I’m guessing we won’t have a lot of great stories about fan interaction. Despite the fact that Dark Horse Comics has been putting out some of the most innovative and entertaining stories over the 20+ years they’ve had the property, I’m guessing that Marvel Comics will be taking the reigns of that Universe now.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Quick Reviews: Punisher War Zone #1, New Mutants #50, and more

Punisher War Zone #1 by Greg Rucka and Carmine di Giandomenico
I haven’t read a Punisher issue in a year or so so I confess to being left in the dark but Greg Rucka’s story gets me up to speed. Apparently, during the Punisher’s last mission, he managed to kill a bunch of bad guys and is accused of killing three cops. And all that carnage was assisted by Punisher’s possession of a web-shooter – which pisses Spider-Man off.

But Spidey’s confrontation with him doesn’t go well and results in another one of his web-shooters missing. Angry and out of options, Spidey takes his case to The Avengers. With the world’s mightiest heroes about to come down hard, Wolverine decides to warn him to give The Punisher a head start.

What I like about this title isn’t just the idea of him dodging The Avengers but the way it affects Spider-Man. There’s a scene in the book where Spidey’s trying to convince the others to go after the Punisher and the team basically says it’s a police problem and while the rest of the team has turned their back and are heading toward the door, Captain America never turns his back. In panel after panel, Cap is listening intently to what Spider-Man is saying. I also like Wolverine giving The Punisher the benefit of the doubt and warning him. The two of them have had their scuffles in the past but it’s nice to know someone knows The Punisher didn’t kill any cops.

It’s a promising start to what could be a fun ride.

A-Babies vs. X-Babies #1 by Skottie Young and Gurihiru
When baby-Cyclops steals Bucky-bear from baby-Captain America, the A-Babies assemble to take on the X-babies to get the stuffed animal back. This issue is fun, funny, and very entertaining. I haven’t gotten any of the X-babies stuff before but if it’s this good, I’ve been missing out.

Wolverine: MAX #1 by Jason Starr, Roland Boschi, and Connor Willumsen
Every once in a while I see a MAX title and tend to think of it as its own universe. Because if the Punisher or Wolverine are this violent and use foul language during the course of those stories, why don’t they do that in normal titles too?

The story starts with Wolverine in a plane crash with a case of amnesia. It’s as boring as it sounds. A MAX title gives you the ability to do as big and violent a story as you want – with this larger canvas I expect a good story. I won’t be fooled into picking up another issue.

Marvel Now! Point One #1 by various
Nick Fury, Maria Hill and Agent Coulson interrogate a man from the future who gives them some cryptic foreshadowing while the reader is introduced to five character’s stories.

Each story was pretty awful.

The Starlord story starts 20 years in the past but doesn’t say who the character is (I only know because of the credits page at the end of the book) and never shifts back to the present.

The Nova story was brainless nonsense that didn’t endear me to this new Nova. Is Richard Rider dead or something?

The Miss America Story is the first time I’ve read anything with the character. She and Loki’s dialogue is full of veiled, unexplained references to the past that I didn’t get.

The Ant-Man story was probably the most irritating. Ant Man’s daughter is killed by Doctor Doom so he decides to get a measure of revenge by defacing Doctor Doom’s painting at a Latverian art exhibit. It’s as dumb as it sounds.

The Forge story was interesting. The idea that he fixes his own brain in time to help Cable is intriguing. Forge has had so many writers tear him to pieces that I’m not a big fan of the character. You never know which personality he’s going to have or how lax his moral compass will be this time. It’s hard to root for a character I don’t care about.

As for as the main story – I know the Marvel Universe has a Maria Hill but when did it gain Coulson? For that matter, when did the Ultimate Universe’s Nick Fury become 616’s Nick Fury? What in the hell is going on?

When did Marvel stop putting in asterisks next to things to reference other issues that would explain some of the dialogue or at least tell you what issue Cassie died in so you could read that story? If this is what Marvel Now is going to be like, I can skip Marvel Comics for a few years. While DC Comics is innovating, Marvel is still confusing.

New Mutants #50 by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Felix Ruiz, and Klebs
The New Mutants throw a well-deserved party!

This is the way every series should end: tying up loose ends, the characters talking to one another and really connecting. I don’t like Sam and Dani being in the friend zone but I do like seeing Amara and Roberto getting closer. The New Mutants are one of my favorite groups and I hate that the ride is over but I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to each of them in the future.

X-Men Legacy #275
When Rogue and Mimic respond to a breakout at a prison holding super-powered prisoners, they might be outnumbered but their ability to absorb and use other people’s powers gives them an advantage – and they need it.

The final issue of X-Men Legacy focuses on Rogue. The last several issues have focused on Rogue and they’ve been amazing so I’m happy that the title ends with her. She and Mimic have some nice dialogue and a final page that wraps up the title nicely and tells the reader that, while most of the X-Men are in turmoil, Rogue is happy.