Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Great pride.

It always makes my night when an artist or author thanks me for such a great review. Ted enjoyed the Courtney review so much, I'm apparently in his debt. Though, I think I know how to make us even...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

3 times the fun: Incognito, Impaler, and Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere

Incognito #1

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips
Colors by Val Staples
Published by Marvel Comics

From the creative team that brought us Criminal and Sleeper, this is Incognito. An ultra-violent and raw mesh of mad science, superheroes, and classic noir given to us the only way Brubaker knows how. As I read the issue, it was difficult not to hear Ed Norton's voice from Fight Club. Full of malevolence and turmoil, there's a slight twist to this tale. Incognito is a story of a bad guy who begins doing good things and seeing how that would affect his life and his view of himself.

The art direction fits perfectly with the gritty script. There is blood, sex and violence, all looking very visceral, and the coloring scheme reminds me of Watchmen. The use of non-primary colors really stands out and compliments Phillips' style very well. It's not a common black and white story. The main character, Zack, is layered and complex -- a bad guy who knows something is wrong, but enjoys his line of "work" anyways.

This is something for fans that want that little extra dash of malice with their violence. There are no flashy costumes or Batman/Bond gadgets here, just a domino mask and a turtle neck. I really enjoyed the raw feel to the book. Zack is probably one of the roughest guys in comicdom, and probably one of the best things about Brubaker is that he sure knows how to write an all-American bad ass.

Incognito comes out next week, and if you like Sin City, Marvel Zombies or Powers, this books should be right up your alley.

Impaler #1
Written by William Harms
Art by Matt Timson
Published by Top Cow

Fans of the terrifying story that began in the IMPALER VOL. 1 trade paperback will have something bite into as it continues as a new ongoing series.

Millions of vampires have descended upon America. In a desperate bid to defeat them, the U.S. military nuked New York City but, unfortunately, it was too little, too late. The vampire horde had already advanced westward, but how far? A team of soldiers sent to rescue the Secretary of State's plane that crash-landed in New Jersey find out the hard way. Humanity's only chance may rest in the hands of vampire hunter Vlad the Impaler and his new companion, Homicide Detective Victor Dailey, who wishes he was dead.

The concept from start to finish is just plain old-fashioned cool. If it's one company that "gets" the super-natural market, it is Top Cow. From Witchblade, to Darkness, to even Dragon Prince, Top Cow scratches that itch when I'm bored with spandex and crises. The paneling structure that Timson puts down plays out like a movie. His figure construction is solid the art is gritty and bloody, just how a vampire book should be. The way Timson draws the creatures is purely horrific, almost as if they're straight out of a nightmare.

It is interesting to see such an historic icon like Vlad the Impaler be showcased as a true soldier and not just the blood-thirsty tyrant he actually was. To seem him take care of Dailey, like a comrade would to a fellow injured soldier is most unusual. Then again, Vlad is a vampire hunter in this series, given divine powers by angels of the Lord. A nice twist on the old tale, that's for sure.

If you're burned out by cross-overs and looking for something a little different, I recommend you pick up this first issue. Also, if you didn't discover Impaler the first time around, you might want to pick that up too. It's not needed for the story, but it would help with the overall experience of this first issue.

Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere
Story and art by Ted Naifeh
Published by Oni Press

Wow. Just when I thought the world of Ms. Crumrin could not get any better, Ted Naifeh blew me away with this story. By the way, I guess I should mention, if you have no idea who or what Courtney Crumrin is, you are sadly missing out. To sum it up, take Harry Potter...now instead of an awkward, untidy-haired British boy, Courtney is an angsty young girl who is an outcast at school and ignored by her parents. She moves in with her Uncle, who is a great warlock himself, and she discovers she can do magic. It is simply beyond cool. While the premise seems simple and played out, there are many twists and turns along the way that is just great and intriguing tale.

I digress.

Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere replaced "Twilight Kingdom" as my favorite in the series. Naifeh has kicked the art and story up every notch possible. On a visit to a castle of her heritage, Courtney meets a young boy named Wolfgang, though something is quite unnatural about him. Courtney doesn't care though, she's been lonely recently and a friend outside of her uncle and cats is what she feels like she needs. She continues seeing Wolfgang, and actually takes the initiative to give him a peck on the cheek. While, Courtney has had "love" interests before, she's never taken the initiative to kiss them. Of course we learn that Wolfgang is in fact "unnatural", and being around him threatens Courtney's life, yet she still yearns to see him.

Just like in any "Courtney" story, things are not what they appear to be. Naifeh is an excellent story-teller and having met the man a hand full of times, you can see the immense pride he has in his work. While my girlfriend has the first three volumes for her kids to check out in her library, the buck kind of stops here for the eleven and younger crowd. There is a discussion between Courtney and a nurse about Christian magic and old magic, before the word of the Lord came to Europe. In this conversation, Courtney out right says she doesn't believe in Christ, which could ruffle some feathers. Though if you have read the series, that really shouldn't come as a surprise.

There are gorgeous castlescapes, wonderful panel constructs and Naifeh has a way of showing great expressions, even for his style, which is so simple and lovely. If you're a Courtney fan, you should not be without this book, and for those who haven't discovered her world yet, I suggest it's time you begun.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wonderful Wizard of Oz #1 review

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz


By now you should be familiar with the story of Dorothy Gale, the young girl from Kansas that is whisked away to the magical land of Oz where she encounters Munchkins, Good Witches, Wicked Witches, a tin man, a scarecrow, lions and tigers and bears... Sorry. I got a little carried away there, but you get the gist. Unlike MGM's legendary film, this mini-series is a more faithful adaption of the actual "Oz" lore, created by L. Frank Baum.

The issue is written by "Oz" enthusiast Eric Showaner and calling him a fan of the world of Oz is an understatement. His first major published works were the OZ graphic novels, which were released by First Comics and Dark Horse between 1986-1992. He has also written [i]and[/i] illustrated a full-length "Oz" novel, "The Giant Garden of Oz," and a collection of short Oz stories, "The Salt Sorcerer of Oz". Like I mentioned, the man knows his stuff.

The art is done by Skott Young, and it's exactly what this book needs. It is kid-friendly, cute, cartoony and I am an adamant supporter for comics aimed for a younger audience. The time line of this first issue (the book is a nine issue mini-series) spans from right before the twister that takes Dorothy to Oz up to right after she meets the Scarecrow.

Those of you who are only familiar with the Judy Garland version, should really try to pick this up. If not for yourself, then perhaps for a young reader in the household. He or she won't be disappointed, but possibly a little confused since the movie has a lot of differences. It's nice to see the original novel getting the comic treatment.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ron Marz, a tad bit of a convo

*note: The subject of an email I sent awhile back was wondering if he had a copy of Big Top Halloween by the Afghan Whigs, then it sort of snowballed from there.

Me: I have an extra copy. If you don't have it, I'd easily give it to you.

Ron Marz:
Hey, Lan, This must've slipped into my inbox without me noticing. Sorry it took so long. If you still have a copy of Big Top Halloween, I'd take you up on the offer. That's the only one I don't have.

Hope all is well with you.



Not a problem, I'll make sure to put it in my bag for New York and give it to you when I see you there. Loved the new Witchblade ish, btw.

Things are well, just nervous about NYCC. I've never been to a colossal con like that.


Ron Marz:
Most excellent. Thanks.

And thanks for the comment about the new WB. I enjoyed your Batman review the other week. Sometimes the emperor has no clothes, so it's good to see somebody willing to say that, rather than just excuse poor storytelling because of reputation.

No need to be nervous about NYC con. It's big and hectic and all that, but it's still a comic con. In the long run, they're all the same, just in a different building. Leave yourself extra time to get where you're going, and make sure you've got money with ya. NYC ain't cheap. And I don't know if you've been to NYC before, but the Javits Center is all the way on the west side, so it's not very near the restaurants or hotels. Depending on where you're staying, it'll be a good, cold walk -- moreso if you're carrying stuff -- or a short cab ride. And bring a warm jacket and hat. NYC, especially near the water, is colder than a witch's tit in February.



Haha. Will do. I figured a day in February in New York isn't exactly like a spring day in Texas. Or even Atlanta for that matter. I put a lot of winter wear on my Christmas list. I'm just hoping I have enough time for everything. Artists alley is starting to look hella impressive.

Be sure to tell me your booth number when you know. I seriously have to meet you.

Also, thanks for the comment about Batman #681. Yeah...I was disappointed. To say the least. Morrison is one of those hit or miss guys. When he's good, he is a grandslam (Animal Man, JLA) though when he's shit, damn, does it smell bad. His run on X-Men made me drop it years ago and I can't touch an issue of All Star Superman. I get a lot of smack about insulting that book, but A) it's too wordy for my taste and B) everybody looks like they're made of pudding. Poorly-made pudding.

At 'Rama we can talk about little things like that, though I've been edited once or twice talking shit about Didio. I'm not saying Quesada is better, and while I loved Marvels: Eye of the Camera, I have to wonder if he had any assist with it since Sheldon now has lung cancer. Though it just maybe a coincidence and I MAY be too much of a conspiracy theorist.

I have 2 questions for you, if you don't mind answering.

1. What's in your pull box?
2. Is Kyle Rayner named after anybody?

Ron Marz:
I'll be at the Top Cow booth. If I hear the number, I'll let you know.

"Kyle" came from Kyle Reese in "The Terminator," and because I thought it sounded cool. I picked "Rayner" out of a list of Irish sir names.

And I don't have a pull box. I only get into the local store infrequently, so most of what I read, I read in trades. I get the DC bundle every month, which has all the DC/Vertigo/Wildstorm output, but I truthfully read very little of it. At the moment, I read Jonah Hex, Action, Northlanders, both All-Star books when the come out, and assorted odds and ends. In trades, I read Captain America, Daredevil, Thor, all the Hellboy/BPRD stuff, Walking Dead, Invincible, Perhapanauts. I don't follow characters, just good stories, which I find are in short supply in monthly superhero books.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ender in Exile review

At the close of Ender's Game, Andrew Wiggin, also called Ender, is told that he can no longer live on Earth. The 12 year-old chooses to leave his home world and begins the long relativistic journey out to the colonies. Ender in Exile is an "interquel" and occurs in between Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead. Though Ender is just 17 by the end of "Exile", so there is a question whether or not there could be more books to follow this one.

The story of "Exile" takes place one year after the Formics were defeated and the Battle School children, except Ender, started to return to Earth. It was agreed that Ender could not go back to Earth because there could be world dilemmas and more than likely wars over who got to keep him to use for their own uses. Since Ender had no way to go back to Earth, he was offered the job of becoming the Governor of the first colony of the Formics' former worlds. A world soon to be called "Shakespeare". His sister Val decided to accompany Ender on his journey because she was sick of being controlled by her older brother Peter. Also due to the fact she wanted to rekindle the relationship she had lost with her little brother.

Ender resides as Governor for a few years in Shakespeare. Near the end of his time as Governor, Ender, and Abra (a young boy from the colony) go to find a site for a new shipment of colonists. Ender wants it to be far enough away from the other settlements so that there will not be any sort of competition between them right away and so they can develop by themselves. In the process of finding a new settlement, Ender stumbles upon what appears to be a note from the Formics. It is a structure made to look like a game he used to play in battle school. When Ender goes to investigate the structure, he finds the pupa of a living Formic Hive Queen that is fertilized and prepared to make hundreds of thousands of babies upon its own maturation. Which in turn, leads Ender to write his first book as Speaker of the Dead, appropriately titled The Hive Queen.

Later, Ender's brother, Peter, near death at this point, asks him to write one for him for when he dies. This book becomes known as The Hegemon. Afterward, Ender resigns as Governor of Shakespeare and leaves the colony for another called "Ganges". The leader of Ganges is Virlomi, who happened to be in battle school with Ender. Here he encounters Randall Firth who believes he is the son of Achilles de Flandres, and even refers to himself by the name Achilles. Randal starts the propaganda of Ender and the Xenocide in an attempt to discredit Virlomi and get revenge against Peter because he believes he was responsible for his father's defeat. Randall tries twice to meet with Ender and discredit him somehow. On the second visit his plan is to cleverly provoke Ender into killing him so that people will see how violent and dangerous he is, but Ender does not attack. Instead Ender tries to convince Randall that he is not Achilles' son, but that he is in fact the son of Bean and Petra; hence where he gets his giantism from. In the end, Randall believes him, though Ender took a beating before it concluded. Randall ends up changing his name to Arkanian Delphiki. After Ender heals a bit, he, Val, and the pupa get on a star ship to go to travel more to far and distant systems.

Orson Scott Card is a solid story teller. I compare his characterizations, not necessarily the way he tells a story, but how he constructs these characters to the late Robert Jordan, author of the famed "Wheel of Time" series. The novel also serves to transition Ender from the end of “Game” to the character we see in “Speaker.” Card is able to do this superbly and the chapters that look at Ender’s character are compelling and solid. I have to nitpick here though. This was billed as a direct sequel, though as I previously mentioned it's more of an interquel, but more than that, More than half the novel is taken from several short stories previously published in Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show.

Ender in Exile ties up a number of loose ends that were left dangling in "Speaker" and "Xenocide". If you enjoyed Ender's Game. but felt lost as the series progressed, then "Exile" is a satisfying missing-link to the overall story that will ease your troubles. I couldn't recommend it unless you are familiar with that initial story and its science, characters, etc.

I enjoyed this book with it's snappy dialogue and suspenseful moments as well as the tear-jerking ones. It's a plain good read what a wonderful author. If you haven't by now taken a look at the Ender universe, I think it's about time you check it out.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Marvels: Eye of the Camera #1

Marvels: Eye of the Camera
Written by Kurt Busiek
Art by Jay Anacleto
Colors by Brian Haberlin
Lettering by Richard Starkings and ComicCraft
Published by Marvel

Fourteen years ago, Marvel Comic published Marvels, the four-issue mini series that launched the careers of both Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. It retold important stories from the Marvel mythos, but not through the eyes of the heroes, but through the everyman: photographer, Phil Sheldon. From the unveiling of the original Human Torch to the debut of the X-Men, Avengers and Fantastic Four and sadly the death of Gwen Stacy. It was groundbreaking at the time, and after 4 years of being announced, Marvels: Eye of the Camera finally hits the shelves this week.

This is not really a direct sequel, more like an in between story. It shows the birth of the Marvel Age, beginning with the origin of the Fantastic Four, but in more detail. The first issue of "Eye" takes place in between issues #1 and #2 of Marvels, but the series will end sometime around the "Fall of the Mutants". Though, this first issue is not just about super powers or classic Marvel characters, the story is still about Sheldon.

He has become complacent in his work and tires of the freelance work, so he turns to a tabloid paper and feels as if he's lowering his standards. Sheldon photographed some incredible moments in history, and here he is, selling himself short for a few extra bucks. Then, he receives a call that would change his life. He gets a call from J. Jonah Jameson to photograph to debut of the (then un-named) Fantastic Four. Soon everything changes. Thor, the Avengers, Spider-Man make themselves known to the world, all the while Sheldon capturing each uncanny moment.

Though, like I previously mentioned, it's not just Sheldon photographing heroes and battles between good and evil, it's a more personal story. It's the story of his adaptation to the changes of the world, with these marvelous debuts and creatures surfacing, as well as little things such as discovering one of his daughters needs glasses. Though the end of the issue is something Sheldon doesn't see coming and it's just as deadly as anything Loki or Galactus could do.

The art by newcomer Jay Anacleto is indeed stunning. His city scapes and panel structure is very reminiscent of Alex Ross and Brian Haberlin's colors are incredible. I am a huge fan of Kurt Busiek and everything he touches. I've been waiting for this book for quite sometime now, and it was more than worth the wait.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

X-Men Noir #1

X-Men Noir #1
Written by Fred van Lente
Art by Dennis Calero
Lettering by Blambot's Nate Piekos
Published by Marvel Comics

Think Chinatown elements mixed with Marvel's premier mutant group. X-Men Noir displaces versions of Marvel's premier group of mutants into a 1930's world ripe with corruption and distrust, much like any great noir story. As powerless vigilantes, the X-Men of this world serve more as realistic analogs of their usual selves, such as the sharp-shooting Cyclops, the diamond thief Iceman or the "Creole Club" owner Gambit.

The issue opens with the mysterious murder of Jean Grey, where we see she has "slash marks along the lower and upper torso...in groups of three." Sound like anybody we know? Apparently, Jean is a member of what the cops call "X-Men", which is their term for students who go to Charles Xavier's reform school. In this universe, Professor Xavier is an exiled psychiatrist who supposedly teaches his pupils how to be better criminals instead of reforming them. In turn, he makes them fugitives of the law and sort of marked men.

Dennis Carelo's art is superb. His use of dark colors and shadows really set the tone and suit the title well. Fred van Lente's reconfiguring these characters is very clever and, dare I say, cool? The two creators mesh amazingly and the story flows easily from panel to panel. The interesting thing is that similar to Marvel's masterpiece Marvels, the point of view isn't told through the heros or villains, but the everyday man; a detective, Thomas Halloway.

I'm trying not to give too much away since there are little winks and nudges to fans that make the book quite enjoyable. I am a fan of this genre and have anticipated this release for quite sometime. My main question for Marvel is whether they will do more "Elseworld"-esque stories in a similar vein as this one. They had massive success with 1602, and this has potential to be the next big thing. Along with X-Men Noir, there will be Spider-Man and Daredevil titles to come later next year.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Batman #681: RIP Conclusion

Batman #681: RIP Conclusion
Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea
Color: Guy Major
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher

This is the the conclusion of the much-hyped "Batman RIP" arc. It's interesting to note that the media got a hold of this and is actually reporting it on their sites and stations. They got it wrong however, but still...it's quite the event. I just wish I could say it was worth the wait. When Grant Morrison is good, he's one of the best. Though, when he's off target...we get something like this issue.

It was interesting to see that in the end even the enemy with unlimited resources could not beat Batman, who has been training all his life to prepare for every eventuality. Still, it struck me as a bit of 'deus ex machina' that Batman knew from the beginning of the Black Glove conspiracy and that he knew of Jezebel's involvement with the conspiracy. I mean, I understand he's supposed to be the "World's Greatest Detective," but that just seems like a cop out.

Similar to what Troy stated in his review, the art of Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea really shines, although I found the paneling structure to be a bit off for my tastes. I did like the little things here and there, mainly how the Joker's lettering looked and Guy Major deserves serious kudos for a job well-done. As a person who was genuinely excited about this arc, my excitement eventually waned and then I just became indifferent, especially after the supposed "death" of Batman. While we are treated to a "6 months later..." scenario, one question comes to mind: If Final Crisis really seals the fate of Bruce Wayne, what was the point of "RIP"?

So in, uh, conclusion, this conclusion didn't pay off for me. With all the hype surrounding this event, one would think Grant Morrison could do better than the cliche "no body and an explosion in the background". This was not his best work, or even his best "Batman" story. I suggest reading his work on JLA in the late 90's. Those were what I would call definitive Batman stories.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Smallville 8.10: "Bride"

By O.J. Flow and myself

"Chloe's glad you came. I could've used some warning." -- Clark Kent (Tom Welling), "Bride"

So there's Wedding Crashers, and then there are wedding crashers. In a season for the books so far, Smallville capped off the first half of their eighth season in epic fashion. That's what the feedback section is for, but I challenge anyone to offer a compelling argument that this series is lagging from the lack of their original showrunners, Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. Rarely have the Season 8 episodes lacked in action, they continue to effectively mine from the DC Comics universe (Plastique, Maxima, and even tonight we got a killer peek at the first live-action Legion of Super-Heroes), and the overall narrative has seen Clark Kent inch toward his steely manhood compellingly. Until last night, I wasn't aware that "Bride" was the last new Smallville episode of 2008, yet there's no question that fans have got to be begging for more with everything laid out here, plus we have plenty to chew on until January. With so much that was involved in "Bride," I brought my date to the wedding, Lan Pitts, for a little extra analysis.

The wedding we mention is the union of James Bartholomew Olsen, Jimmy to you and me, and Chloe Sullivan. Anyone who's ever read a Superman book can tell you that they've never known a married Jimmy Olsen, so anything this show covers is unfamiliar territory to all. And I haven't even seen the hit motion picture, but I knew enough to recognize what was being invoked in key moments of "Bride." I wasn't sold on the Cloverfield vibe, but I was impressed enough just as something different for the show on an aesthetic level, using camcorder footage to detail certain events on this special day for Chloe & Jimmy. Did we mention that the Kent family barn was the venue for their wedding? Me: "They got married in the barn? I don't remember it being that big. I mean, that cake looked pretty killer, though. It seemed very homey, though here's the deal with Smallville, you never see Chloe and them socialize with anybody else." At this wedding, that was one thing that struck me funny as well: in attendance were seemingly dozens of people that we've never seen before, nor will we again. I can easily envision a more intimate wedding between these two kids, especially when it was recently revealed that Jimmy comes from a somewhat broken home and likely filled out a short guest list for his side. I have to imagine that a well-attended ceremony was more for the benefit of creating tension for the unexpected guest who later arrives during the reception. In short, this wedding was lousy with props.

Though "Bride" kicks things off in full pandemonium mode with Chloe, Jimmy and the entire wedding party in deep distress, the better part of the episode is played out "Eight Hours Earlier" with Lois, Chloe's cousin, organizing the ceremony detail with military precision. Her attention is diverted at one point when Jimmy plays a junior high game and spills it that Clark's sweet on her. Lan: "I wonder if Lois and Clark will get together on the show, however I am against that idea. They keep poking and prodding at it, and this episode basically just served it to us." Later, Chloe's wedding day bliss is sidetracked when she gets a message on her voice mail from "the other guy," Davis Bloome. Sidetracked as well is Clark, the man giving the bride away and host to the big day, when Oliver Queen shows up with news that he's got a big lead on the missing Lex Luthor. Clark stands firm that he will not join in Oliver's search on the most important day in Chloe's life, and the two guilt each other pretty good on their agendas, but Oliver eventually gets data he needs from Clark by way of some stolen internet his assistant grabs.

Later, Oliver finds his target (Green Arrow, get it?) in Cuba, only it's nothing more than a decoy. What it does draw out is a female adversary who proves to be more than a match for GA. In her first appearance of the season, Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk) is back! Actually, she's not so much back to her hometown as she is drawn out by Queen here (Lan appreciated the Star City references, by the way). Not sure what her mannequin version of Lex was for, but it turns out that she's after Lex as well, more to protect Clark than anything. It's borderline convenient that no sooner does Clark orchestrate Chloe's amnesia regarding his super-talents (which explains why she at one point busts out Kryptonite in front of Clark unaware of the ramifications) do they bring back the other girl in Clark's life who has his backstory down pat. Not surprising that later she opts to attend the wedding, and in doing so interrupts what could've been Lois and Clark's first kiss during a slow dance at the reception. Even when she's not the girl in Clark's life, she does a good job keeping anyone else out of contention.

Keeping Jimmy out of contention for Chloe is Davis, increasingly unable to suppress the destroyer in him that we found out recently was by Kryptonian design. Lan: "Was this the bloodiest episode ever or WHAT? When Davis had the bags of God knows what... Jesus..." Indeed, Davis finally reaches boiling point in Metropolis when he attempts to dispose of the remains of his last couple of victims, and an attentive police officer quickly adds himself to the list. We get a glimpse of Davis's transformation from humanoid to bony behemoth, the likes of which we haven't seen since The Incredible Hulk decades ago. At risk of dating myself, the havoc that Davis, now Doomsday, wreaked reminded me of one of the more absurd season finales of Dynasty, when an entire wedding party was mowed over in a royal assassination attempt. Right as the wedding cake is getting cut, Doomsday steamrolls into the Kent barn and nothing between him and Chloe is able to stop them. Clark throws a punch that gets caught in midair, and he's flung to the other end of the barn and inconveniently subdued by a chunk of green K floating around. Seeing how Clark fares against Doomie, it's no surprise that Jimmy's attempt to protect his new bride has catastrophic results. A major gash across the chest puts him in the local ICU along with a lot of other guests. Doomsday makes off with Chloe and takes her back to the Fortress of Solitude that now appears to be darkened under the control of Brainiac.

At the conclusion of "Bride," an unconscious Chloe awakens to the visage of Doomsday, and she's disturbingly comfortable with what she sees looking at her. The fact that her eyes are glazed over black suggests that she's fully overcome by Brainiac. In the even more surprising scene as credits roll, a figure bound to machines is subjected to the recorded footage of the aborted wedding in a solitary room, and the back view of the person without even seeing a face makes it obvious that it's none other than Lex Luthor!

So how is Clark going to find Chloe now that the Fortress is clearly under new ownership? Does the future of Lois and Clark stand a chance? Has Davis fully given into Doomsday, never to return? Have we seen the last of Lana, not to mention Jimmy? And who could possibly be responsible for Lex right now? Did anyone see Tess Mercer? I'll let Lan here have the last word on the show's returning cast member: "I perhaps took Kreuk for granted, because I have missed her presence on the show, and she was looking gorgeous as ever."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In cased you missed it...Contract #0

Story by Garan Madeiros and Charlie Shell
Art by Dave Ross, Sal Velluto, Kevin Sharpe, Ariel Padilla, and Mark McKenna
Published by First Salvo

When I first even heard about this book, it was on my comic shop's list of titles for the upcoming week. I feel it's important, nay, almost an OBLIGATION to at least check out some independent titles on occasion. You don't want to be that sucker that's missing out on a great read just because it doesn't have the press machine that Marvel or DC has.

To quote the Diamond's May Previews: "In a capitalist world's dark future, Mercenary is no longer just a soldier for hire. It's a way of life. Law is enforced by cyber-powered Mercs and life or death is decided by the lowest bidder. There is no right or wrong beyond the price in hard currency. Jessie Garrett, however, is everything most Mercs are not: honest, selfless and determined to bring order to greed-hardened worlds, driven mad by money. But when a corporate kidnapping goes wrong, Jessie, and fellow Mercs, Panzer and Tsumi, get in over their heads."

Now, just reading that I had a flashback to 9th grade games of Rifts after school. Also, the main character, Jessie, looks like an amalgamation between Marshall Bravestarr and Judge J.B. McBride, but I think that's just me. The story is pretty solid. Madeiros and Shell don't just have a script, they have a world. It's not as bizarre as the Marvel 2099 future, but outlandish and entertaining enough to have kept me interested to where I wonder what will happen next. It's seriously a fun read, sort of what "Battle Chasers" was, only in a cyber-western environment. One complaint though, similar to what Robert Jordan did with his epic Wheel of Time series, I would include a glossary in the front or back to explain some of the terminology. Just like how I wish Peter David had included one on his "Dark Tower" series.

A plethora of artists worked together, though the one that stood out for me was Kevin Sharpe. His style is almost J. Scott Campbell meets Adam Hughes. I would love to see this guy become just as popular as the forementioned artists. Any fan of such shows like "Firefly" or the mutually short-lived "Bionic Woman" would love to get a hold of these issues when they hit shelves. Though that itself can be problematic. A lot of big chain stores don't order independent books like this unless it has huge press behind it. Or possibly is about to made into a movie...or some ordeal like that. So more than likely you are going to have to ask for this (I had to at my girlfriend's shop) so it CAN fill the shelves. Okay, so maybe not fill the shelves...that would mean nobody is buying it. You get the gist though. Now, the company knows you are taking a risk on an unknown, independent comic so Contract #0 will only cost you a mere $0.25! So, if you've got the time, and the spare quarter, check this title out. What do you have to lose?

Sunday, November 16, 2008


In the not so distant future, an epidemic of organ failures devastates the planet. Out of the ashes of this tragedy, a savior emerges: GeneCo, a biotech company that offers organ transplants...for a price. Those who miss their payments are scheduled for repossession and hunted by the villainous organ Repo Men.

I had the opportunity to see Repo this past weekend and was blown away. Before one sees this movie, I advise you to not assume it's going to be similar to Moulin Rouge! or Rocky Horror. Or some abstract amalgam of the two. It's nothing like them at all. This modern, futuristic rock opera is unlike anything I have ever seen. The opening shots were drawn comic-book panels that briefly set up the prologue. A side note, all of the art was illustrated by co-writer Terrance Zdunich, who also portrays "GraveRobber". The characters in the film have their own story, yet all are intertwined with the other, and yet not at all complicated, though layered.

The President of GeneCo is Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino, Romeo + Juliet), learns that he is dying, while Shilo Wallace (Alexa Vega, Spy Kids), a 17-year-old girl with a rare blood disease, that she's been told she inherited from her deceased mother, sneaks through underground tunnels to her mother's tomb. Shilo follows a bug out of the mausoleum in an attempt to capture it, and in the process, runs into GraveRobber (Terrance Zdunich), who is busy digging underground. They flee from heavily-armed "GenCops" and enter a massive underground graveyard since grave robbers are to be killed on sight. Shilo is sighted...but saved by one of the mysterious Repo Men.

Shilo wakes up after passing out from blood-pressure problems, to the face of her over-protective father, Nathan Wallace (Anthony Stewart Head, Giles from "Buffy"). He has been keeping her locked in their house for seventeen years due to her disease. Shilo is bitter towards her late mother for giving her this disease and her even more so towards her father. Nathan, upset, gets ready for work...secretly as the head Repo Man for GeneCo. He takes great pride in his work, but knows that he can never reveal it to Shilo in fear of breaking her trust.
President Largo has three ungrateful and spoiled children: Luigi (Bill Moseley, The Devil's Rejects, Carnivale), Pavi (Ogre, vocalist for industrial band Skinny Puppy) and Amber (Paris Hilton). They fight and bicker over who will inherit the company after their father dies. All the while, they're taking inventory at a GenCo storehouse in a fantastical number that is one of my favorite songs in the whole production. Though, unbeknownst to the Largo children, their father has other plans. He sees a possible heir is Shilo, who he invites to see a Genetic Opera that night and introduces her to Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman), who thought Shilo died at birth.

Meanwhile Nathan, repossessing a spine, calls Shilo, who is at "Sanitarium Square" being guarded by Rotti's twin henchwenches while he's distracted. GraveRobber arrives and helps Shilo slip away from the twins. Meanwhile, Rotti announces that Blind Mag will be performing her final song as well as that Amber will be the spokesperson for the newly-revealed Zydrate Support Network, a rehab center for those addicted to the potent painkiller Zydrate. Shilo watches GraveRobber explain Zydrate, harvested from the brains of the dead and sold to addicts. Those who are addicted to surgery, like Amber, need Zydrate to ease the pain. Amber arrives and gets a shot of it, explaining in the process that she will be replacing Blind Mag after Mag's eyes, which she got from GeneCo, get repossessed after her final song, which in my opinion is the showstopper of the movie. GenCops arrive and everyone scrambles to escape, except for Amber and her two escorts, who hold her up as she passes out in a drug-induced haze.

Shortly after that, Nathan delivers the repossessed spine to Rotti, and he gives Nathan his next target: Blind Mag, though Nathan refuses. Rotti, Pavi, and Luigi follow Nathan as he works on another victim, trying to guilt him into repossessing Mag's eyes. He still refuses, and leaves once done with the victim. Later, Rotti sends the twins to accompany Blind Mag to Shilo's house, where Blind Mag confesses to Shilo that she is Shilo's godmother, having been good friends with Shilo's mother, Marni, before she died. Mag was sent by Rotti to convince Shilo to come to tonight's Genetic Opera. However, she also warns Shilo about GeneCo. Nathan arrives and starts an argument with Mag before kicking her out of his house. After trying to tell her dad that a Repo Man will take Blind Mag's eyes, Nathan tells her that there's no such thing as the Repo Men and sends her to bed. When she argues, he asks what she, a seventeen year old, could possibly do and without hesitation, Shilo retorts that it's better than being forty. Joan Jett makes a brief cameo as the guitarist in Shilo's musical number, properly entitled, "Seventeen". However, Shilo's dream-like rock number ends abruptly as Nathan slaps Shilo and she runs off.

Back at the Largo Manor, Amber, complains to her father that her latest surgery ruined her face. Rotti explains that he told her not to get so many surgeries. However, he eventually gives in and tells her that he'll take care of it, just like the good father he's always tried to be. After she leaves, Rotti has a monolouge and signs his will, which shows Shilo as his sole beneficiary. Nathan, after realizing that Shilo isn't home, discovers that GenCops have stolen Marni's body from the basement. Everyone gets ready for the Genetic Opera (Nathan puts on his Repo Man gear, Blind Mag walks through the cemetery on the way to the opera house, Amber picks up a last hit of Zydrate before the show, etc.). Meanwhile, GraveRobber express his beliefs that there will be a massacre at the Genetic Opera, and that whoever survives it will rule GeneCo.

The ending is too good to give away. There is tragedy, murder, revenge, and actually a bit of comedy. Darren Lynn Bousman has made a name for himself as a go-to guy for over the top, operatic gore and he doesn't shy away from it here. Repo! is often tremendously bloody with sanguine spilling left and right, often directly on top of naked flesh. He takes what he learned making Saw II--IV and pushes in into overdrive as he uses it to skewer one satirical target after the next. Normally, I am one to shy away from sexualized violence. I find it repulsive and saddening, but here, Bousman has found that perfect mix between sexy and grotesque. Though the bloodletting is vicious, it never spills over into elaborate rape fantasy.

The cast is made up of a bizarre collection of geek favorites, musicians and world famous opera singers is almost weirder than the movie's central concept. Paul Sorvino is exquisite fun as the patriarch who controls the world, but finds himself unable to defeat cancer. Sorvino is fascinating to watch when he is let loose and he has a singing voice to rival any star of stage. Sarah Brightman is also quite good in a small roll that is entirely divorced from her signature turn in "Phantom of the Opera". The rest of the cast is a bit of a mixed bag. Alexa Vega is strong as the daughter of the organ stealer and Anthony Stewart Head outdoes his Buffy singing, easily by a hundred fold. Meanwhile, Bill Mosely is obnoxious and all over the place, playing his seventh version of characters he's played before. The biggest surprise to me was to see Paris Hilton and her actually being watchable as Amber Sweet, even if she is heightened-reality version of herself. But the real standout is Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy. The man steals the show as a deformed lothario who has a nasty habit of killing his lovers. I sense him being a popular costume for comic conventions to come.

Repo: The Genetic Opera combines brutality with comedy and music very effectively. The interactions between the characters as they sing their parts make for great character development and story progression simultaneously. I'm not the type to like weird, cult films but this held my attention. It's definitely worth a viewing, and if you have time to immerse yourself, then it's definitely worth some good applause. I must say, I don't profoundly pitch or push quite so personally for many things, but I do think such a rare and beautiful film should not go unnoticed and unappreciated. The DVD release is scheduled for January 25th 2009, but there is still time to push and plead to your local theater and ask for them to screen it. You won't soon regret it or soon forget this experience of a movie.

Heart of Hush conclusion: Detective Comics 850

Detective Comics #850
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Dustin Nguyen, Justin Fridolfs, and John Kalizs
Cover by Dustin Nguyen
Edited by Mike Marts
Published by DC
Review by Lan Pitts

"Heart of Hush" concludes in this anniversary double-sized issue, which I cannot suggest enough you go out and buy for yourself. Since the "R.I.P." event started, I've started reading only the main "R.I.P."-related stories from the main two Batman books: "Batman" and "Detective Comics". However, I slowly became less interested in the main story and became entranced by what the Dini/Nguyen team-up was bringing to the table. Dini's story is completely separate from Grant Morrison's, and luckily he managed to take one of the lamest villains in the history of Batman, Hush, and turned him into a formidable adversary for the Batman. Despite the odds, the "Heart of Hush" arc developed into a well thought-out chapter in the life of Bruce Wayne.

The action begins immediately and almost never stops. Even Alfred all have a skirmish with Hush before the issue is over, and one last flashback seals Dini's deal on just how demented Dr. Tommy Elliot really is. Dini then took what should have been an obvious story point for any past scribe who tinkered with the Hush character, and played upon the doctor drawn to evil element in Tommy Elliot's life. He's an accomplished surgeon and that should've been a major plot point when he first arrived in Gotham, or even when he was given a second go around. The double sized issue helped out with the story; the flashbacks, the final battle inside the Batcave, everything. Without it, it probably wouldn't be as better in terms of pacing and what Dini provided. In terms of Hush himself, what Dini did here was prove to us that Dr. Thomas Elliot was not a murderer at first, but someone who had reasons. How his mother treated him was enough for me to say "no wonder he hated his family, look at them". Obvious, Elliot's mother was spoiled and sees things right if under her rules and influence. And if Elliot doesn't do at least one or two things right, she does something horrible that wasn't needed like take away his money. No mother does that, and I found myself liking Hush and understanding him, but only from those flashbacks.

With the pencils by Nguyen, inks by Dustin Fridolfs, and colors by John Kalisz this art continues to be a winning combination. Nguyen's costumed heroes and villains have never looked cooler, nor have his women ever looked so beautiful. And, as always, he's equally adept at staging dynamic action and calmer moments both quiet and creepy. Kalisz brings a perfect palette of colors to the mix, and he knows when to let loose and when to hold back. Nothing seems out place, and as I mentioned Dini's pacing before, everything meshes well together. I loved the cameos by Dr. Mid-Nite, Mr. Terrific and Zatanna. Even though Bruce considers himself a lone ranger, he knows his limits and knows when he needs help.

When writing this review, I tried my best to remain spoiler-free. There's an endearing scene between Bruce and Selina near the end that will please all the hopeless romantics, while still playing entirely true to their relationship and where they both are at this specific point in their lives. It's just beautifully constructed. The ending is almost Shakespearean and the issue had several moments where I found myself either laughing or wanting to jump and down. It's that good. The double-sized format really assisted and gave the proper length for such a worthy conclusion. Also to add: the scene in the Batcave gave several nods to Bat-fans: the good-ole Batboat, "Whirly-Bat", and the Batmobiles from the '40s, Burton era, B:TAS, as well as the "Tumbler".

Heart of Hush ends with something worthy of Hollywood and a Greek drama, and with that, I give you an Aristotle quote that seems quite fitting to the Batman universe: "Great men are always of a nature originally melancholy."

Smallville, "Abyss" review

"The truth is my brain's a little fried. Literally." -- Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack), "Abyss"

With the departure of Kristin Kreuk and Michael Rosenbaum, followed by show creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, my faith in the show's direction waned. I had figured that WB would drop the ball and hand us a subpar show, leaving us Smallville fans with a bad taste in our mouths. I assumed incorrectly. This season has been surprisingly strong and this episode has equally strong performances. Fans of Smallville may remember that at the end of the last season Chloe was confronted by Brainiac and somehow absorbing, if not "downloading," some of his computing abilities. This in turn transformed her into a sort of super-genius. Unfortunately, that's not the only thing she may have gotten from him...

"Abyss" starts out with Chloe being woken up by Jimmy with breakfast in bed for his blushing bride to be. He informs her that Lana has not responded to their wedding, though Chloe doesn't seem to remember who Lana is. Jimmy is confused about this and tells Chloe is worried about her, and her recent memory loss. Chloe brushes it off as being distracted and being stressed. All of a sudden, the screen goes wonky, like an analog TV trying to find a signal. We're now at a dance. Very weird. Chloe and Jimmy are dancing at their engagement party; everything seems all right...until people and furniture start getting deleted one by one. By the end of the scene, everything is gone (even Jimmy, who for a second looked like the Question with a blank face), and she's alone in a dark abyss flooded with Kryptonian symbols. When Jimmy stirs her awake, she does not remember him or their love.

Jimmy, of course then, goes to Clark to inform him of her situation. He tells Clark that he had to show her a photo album of them together for her to believe him. I don't know what Jimmy said to her right before he left to see Clark, but I would not leave her alone. However, since he did, Chloe finds the local hospital and bluffs her way to getting some info on memory loss. She bumps into Davis along the way. Interesting thing is that she remembers him and Clark without hesitation. Clark confronts Chloe on her brain drain and is surprised to find a secret room covered wall to wall with images and photographs of her life. She's basically made a cheat sheet. Clark deduces it is Brainiac slowly taking over her mind, and now they have to find a way to slow the process and remove him.

Meanwhile, Davis finds Jimmy and explains why he can't come to their wedding and it's an awkward moment for both of them. It's obvious that Davis cares for Chloe, we're not sure in what way, but it is certain that Jimmy loves her. Davis leaves Jimmy with the words "take care of her". It's really kind of sad to see Jimmy go through this, but Ashmore handled it pretty well. Cut back to Clark and Chloe, who have figured out that Brainiac is for some reason downloading Kryptonian symbols and data into her brain especially one in particular: the word "doom". Clark suggests that he will try and bargain with Jor-El to see if there is a way they can purge Brainiac from her. Chloe's memories are fading faster by the second...then it happens: Chloe forgets about Clark's powers, biological father, all Kryptonian terms, Kal-El, Brainiac, etc. Clark hands her a photo album with pictures of them just in case she forgets who he is by the time he returns. Shortly after, Jimmy discovers Chloe in the barn and she fakes her emotions toward him and it's easily discovered. He brings the photo album from before, though I thought this is where they could play up his insecurities by noticing the photo album Clark gave her -- they didn't.

Clark has returns to the Fortress of Solitude and talks to Jor-El to get him up to speed on the situation. Jor-El tells his son that he can, in fact, translate the symbols into Earth memories, but since Brainiac is unpredictable it would be up to Clark to make that decision. However, Jimmy has already made one. He took Chloe to see a doctor and she was going to get an MRI. While she went into the machine, we're shown a flashback between young Clark and Chloe where she kissed him the very first time. Like before, Brainiac continues to delete her memories. In Chloe's head, we see her run from memory to memory, trying to escape being erased...then suddenly Davis appears, they touch hands, and when she wakes up he is all she can remember. So of course she goes to find him, and he simply brings her back to Jimmy and Clark.

Alison Mack captures the fear and confusion one could face if they came to lose all their thoughts and memories. When Chloe panics and makes a break for it, Davis knocks her out with a sedative and Clark takes her to the Fortress. Clark chooses to have her memories restored, but before Jor-El does that, his son asks for her not to remember anything associated with his powers or true origins. "You're the best friend and ally I could've had, Chloe. The truth is, you've saved me more than I ever could've saved you." With that, Brainiac oozes out of Chloe, while unbeknownst to Clark or Jor-El he absorbs himself into the Fortress.

Later, when the smoke has cleared, Jimmy and Chloe are back at her place, working on the seating charts for their upcoming wedding until Clark drops by, mainly to confirm that she doesn't remember anything about his past. Chloe then starts to leave on her scooter, but is confronted by Davis who finally admits his feelings towards her. Chloe shuts him down at first, but they steal a quick kiss before she retreats. It's obvious that Davis won't let her go so easy. Later, Clark returns to the Fortress (again) and updates Jor-El on Chloe and informs him of the "doom" symbol. Jor-El tells Clark of a creature of pure hatred, created for the sole purpose of war and mass destruction, and it would not stop until the world is dead. "I'll take it on like I have everything else," Clark replies before zooming out of the Fortress. However, things do not bode well for Jor-El. Brainiac infects the Fortress and declares to Jor-El that nothing will stop him. "Doomsday is coming."

Now here is where I'm divided. The fanboy in me wants to jump up and down, though the journalist in me as a few questions for the writers. Does Chloe know about the Green Arrow? If she knows about the Justice League, then she knows Clark is a part of that group, right? Where was Lois during all this? While I have to admit most of "Abyss" is filler, it accomplished several things. The father/son relationship between Clark and Jor-El is repaired, and they undid the mess of the last four years when Chloe knew Clark's secret and he became too dependent on her. When Chloe told Clark that her learning his secret allowed her to make an impact on the world, that's true, but it's also true that Clark was stationary and only concerned about saving his friends and family, nothing more. They've corrected these things for the 8th season and in this episode in particular. Now it's time for both Clark and Chloe to go their separate ways.

I do have one major complaint: Clark just stole four years of Chloe's life since her life has been pretty much wrapped up in Clark's secret for that long. He might have been trying to be noble, but this is Clark going backwards. He needs to create a new identity to hide behind, not steal someone else's knowledge. Give the baddies a public target and his private life stays private. I expect the memory wipe to be temporary.

Don't get me wrong, "Abyss" was a fun episode to watch. A core idea of any good thriller is not knowing what is going to happen next. Poor Chloe, with her accelerated amnesia, was a fantastic way to add that element of uncertainty into Smallville. Better yet, Doomsday is looming on the horizon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Marvel Noir: Marvelous detectives?

With its recent advertising campaign for the December-launching Marvel Noir line, the House of Ideas drove even average comic fans crazy trying to figure out what series or event the posters were promoting. Was it another Secret Invasion-size event? Was an A-list character getting a reboot? Was a fan-favorite writer returning to Marvel?

"Every time one would come out, the comic book Web sites would go nuts with people trying to figure out what's going on," remembered Dennis Calero, artist and co-creator of X Men Noir and the posters in question. "Some people were saying it was Frank Miller coming back to Marvel and doing X-Men like Sin City, which isn't too far off from what we're trying to do."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Warhammer: Condemned by Fire (5-issue trade)

Warhammer: Condemned by Fire (trade)
Written by Dan Abnett and Ian Edginton
Art by Rashan Ekedal, Chad Hardin, and Anthony Williams
Colors by Fellipe Martin, Veronica Gandini, Lisa LuBera and Chris Summers
Published by Boom! Studios

This trade offered by BOOM! Studios has a little bit of everything. It's part Punisher, part Army of Darkness, and sprinkled with bits of Lord of the Rings. The people over at BOOM! Studios really put out the books that scratch my bored-of-spandex itch. This collection of issues has something for the hardcore Warhammer fan, or the hardcore fantasy reader. Though the latter may not get all the references, they will still get the gist. BOOM! has taken good care of their Warhammer franchise, both the 40k as well as the fantasy title, which is where this stories in this trade take place.

Our protagonist is Magnus Gault, a Witch Hunter and Templar of Sigmar who is on a quest to hunt down a heretic, Szymon Magister, across a fantastic and gothic landscape. Gault eventually finds Magister in a light-forsaken town of decay where the citizens have become rotten zombie-like creatures. Gault wastes no time in decimating the rotting townspeople and burns their town to cinder. And just as soon as he rides in, he keeps moving on to find the source of the evil that contaminates the land. His trek takes him to faraway lands and still he finds decay and rotting animals with no clue on why this is happening. Along the way, he is ambushed by creatures known as warhounds. During the skirmish his horse Asche is wounded and Gault puts her out of her misery. After setting the body on fire so she is not used as carrion for the beasts around, he continues on foot well into the night and finds himself in the town of Totenburg. There is he is greeted by what he thinks are humans, however he is quick to find out they are servants of the God of Stagination, Nergle.

Unlike in the previous town, he is succumbed and taken prisoner and placed with the other townsfolk that are used as sacrifices for Nergle. Among the prisoners is Franz Vogel, Greatsword of Averland. I would like to think I have read enough fantasy books to know that is supposed to mean something pretty important. Vogel shares his life story, which is a sad tale indeed. Conversing with Vogel more, Gault figures out that the contamination is coming from the spring water. Gault constructs a small explosive and frees them from their prison, then quickly goes to the armory and retrieves his weapons. Side by side with Vogel, the two kill a plethora of the undead townspeople and like before, Gault burns the city down.

Both Vogel and Gault venture on together to find the source of the taint and they finally find it. I won't reveal the giveaway, but yes, another battle occurs and all ends well. The art is pretty good, though in the fourth issue seems a little off and not as put-together as the previous issues. I wish I could recommend this trade to the casual comic reader, however the dialogue is hard to chew at times. I understand it is taking place in a fantasy realm, but those who aren't fluent in Shakespearean style talk may have a hard time understanding it. I DO want to recommend it for the fantasy readers out there who are used to the likes of Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, and R. A. Salvatore and probably can get through that sort of speaking. The other complaint I have is actually an issue I have for all of these sorts of books. I think it would be helpful for the non-hardcore fans to have an index or glossary of sorts in the back so they can have somewhat of a clue on what's what and who's who. Also, I hate to nitpick, but there needed to be a finer tuned editing job. There were a few typos here and there, such as "looses" when it should have been "loses".

I'm a huge fan of fantasy books, and BOOM! is coming out with the better titles that I have seen on the market. Here's hoping they continue their streak of great stories and great use of the Warhammer name.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Rage of the Red Lanterns

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Shane Davis and Sandra Hope
Published by DC

This is THE issue I have been waiting for. Mr. Trecker already covered it ,here for one of this week's Best Shots, and now it is my turn to give it a go. It starts with Atrocitus getting the power of the Red Lantern. The bonding ritual between creature and lantern is something out of a horror movie and the Red Lantern "oath" is just as disturbing. Back on Coast City, Hal Jordan discusses the execution of Sinestro with Carrol Ferris. It's a stirring bit of dialogue that really captures the character of Jordan, both as a man and as one of our planet's greatest superheroes. When Jordan finally reaches Sinestro in his prison, Sinestro asks if Jordan thinks his execution is just. Jordan replies "It's not justice, it's what you deserve."

On the way to Korugar, Sinestro's home planet, the Green Lanterns escorting Sinestro to his execution are ambushed by the Sinestro Corps. After a brief altercation, both Corps are attacked by the Red Lantern Corps. The Green Lanterns and Sinestros are no match for the Reds and are easily taken out. I think Johns created, albeit not on purpose, an interesting equivalent to Ch'p: a blue cat that melts the face off of one unlucky Sinestro Corps member right before he could hand Sinestro his ring. When all hope seems lost for Jordan and company, a blue light shines and equips Jordan with power he's never experienced before and recharges his ring's power level at 200%! We will have to wait until next issue to discover who this Blue Lantern is.

I'm not quite sure how this is an official Final Crisis tie-in, though it is noted as being in between #1 and 2 of that series. I want to assume this is a tie-in in name alone. For all intents and purposes, this issue is really Green Lantern #36. It may be longer than the average issue, and Ivan Reis is unfortunately absent, but the issue falls right in line with Johns' continuing "lanterns" epic. Those of you out there who have been turned off by Final Crisis, please know that this book is utterly superb in every aspect. Though Ivan Reis is absent from this issue, Shane Davis really comes through and delivers truly astounding work. He captures the essence of Johns' script and takes the reader through an action-packed issue that is cannot-miss.

With Johns' running "Rage" and "Green Lantern", and "Blackest Night" and "War of Light" on her horizon it is a great time to be Green Lantern fan.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

3 Jokers, One "Office".

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery and the most recent episode of NBC's hit show The Office proves that even more. Creed, Kevin and Dwight all dressed as Heath Ledger's version of the Joker for their Halloween-themed episode which aired this past Thursday night. Though it was only in the first three to four minutes, it confirmed that Ledger's performance and the styling of comic's all-time greatest villain has achieved pop culture icon status. I worked at a Halloween specialty store this year for some extra cash, and it seemed I was giving out make up advice on how to do the perfect Joker every other hour. And yes, I was one of those people.

It is still interesting to me how people went from curious looks and raised eyebrows in confusion when Ledger was cast two years ago, to now making sure they got their costumes just right and trying to master his voice and mannerisms while in line with their make up in hand. I had a blast giving out advice and tips and such. I'm a perfectionist myself, and having seen The Dark Knight a lucky thirteen times now, I like to think I know my way around Ledger's performance.

I went to downtown Athens, Georgia last night for Halloween festivities, I counted no less than eleven Jokers (including the infamous "nurse" Joker). Numerous lists this year named the Joker as their top-selling costume for males young and old. I was six years old when Tim Burton's Batman dominated the 1989 box office and I remember several kids having their parents buy them this. Though I certainly don't remember seeing mainstream sit-com characters imitate him. Then again, I probably was too young to be fully aware of the cultural impact that movie made.

Enough cannot be said about Ledger's performance and the impact it has made, and will likely continue to make on pop culture. It is truly on the same level as Anthony Perkins' Norman Bates, Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter, and Daniel Day-Lewis' Daniel Plainview. I'm sure they are not such hot sellers at your local Spirit Halloween store, and it will be interesting to see how long we see nods to Ledger's Joker all around us.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cyblade #1 Review

Cyblade #1
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Pencils by Rick Mays
Inks by Sal Regla
Colors by Guru-eFX
Letters by Troy Peteri
Edited by Rob Levin
Published by Top Cow

Cyblade was one of two books fans voted for in Pilot Season 2007 to get its own series. The creative team who worked on the Pilot issue, writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Rick Mays, return to work on the series. French born Dominique Thiebault is a former team member of Cyberforce and was once a blatant rip-off of Psylocke. The new series, however, is a prequel to her adventures on that team. Now we meet nineteen year old Dominique, whose ability to generate electromagnetic blades manifests during an armed attack on her school. After some years pass, Dominique becomes a "Special Hazardous Operations Cyborg" or S.H.O.C. trooper for the malevolent corporation known as "Cyberdata", who provides her with the cybernetic upgrades that turn her into assassin/warrior Cyblade. It isn't until she leaves Cyberdata to join Cyberforce that she realizes the extent of the crimes she has committed in Cyberdata's name. Fialkov's series is set in the beginning of Dominique's career as a S.H.O.C., as the hero gradually becomes aware of her employer's choosing. With the help of a spy sent to infiltrate the company, Cyblade has broken free from Cyberdata's control. She must find a way to escape from their clutches for good, while trying to discover who she really is beneath and choose her own destiny.

If any of this sounds familiar, it's because it should. The assassin with amnesia bit has been slightly played out through the years. From Wolverine to Jason Bourne, and with Christian Slater's new gig on "My Own Worst Enemy" added to the list, it seems a tad passe. The obvious main difference is that this time it's a young girl who is the killer/weapon instead of some middle-aged male. I never got around to reading the one-shot last year since the name "Cyblade" brought back bad memories of the oh so gritty 90's. I recently tracked it down in one of my local shops, in the $1.50 bin, so there wasn't much to lose. To be honest, I surprised myself and rather enjoyed it, though I kept reminding myself I paid what was basically half-price for it.

I digress. Cyblade: Agent of Cyberdata is just so-so. It's definitely not the best, nor is it the worst out there. The dialogue is well-written, even if it's not the most original concept on the market. Mays' pencils are solid. . . most of the time. There are times where his figures look awkward and uncomfortable. The coloring is hit and miss as well. The laser blast and shower effects look spectacular. However, when it comes to Steven Rashall (the agent helping Dominique plan her escape) and his shirt, it looks as if he is sealed inside of it.

The book has plenty of room for potential and improvement, though I admit I'm intrigued on where they plan to take Dominique from here. While reading one thought kept crossing my mind-- of all the characters, why do just one, and so one-dimensional? It is clear that even the smallest characters can have the biggest fans. And hey, at least it's not a Bloodwulf spin-off.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Smallville, 8.5 "Committed"

"Guess the Olsen's not so wholesome." -- Lois Lane (Erica Durance), "Committed"

This is the second week in a row that Smallville touches on the subject of love and romance. After they leave their engagement party, Chloe and Jimmy get kidnapped by an emotionally-scarred jeweler who has become twisted by his wife's infidelity. Now, he gets his kicks by abducting couples and subjecting them to a kryptonite-enhanced lie detector that shocks them if they lie. It seems to me, that as the series progressed, meteor rock or as it's finally been called it's true name, "kryptonite" is more commonplace than the phrase "my friends" at a McCain rally. Can you just buy this stuff at any old gas station or Big Lots? Also, things at the Luthor manor, Tess investigates where that mysterious e-mail came from...could Lex be alive?

I digress however. On the hunt for their friends, Lois and Clark disguise themselves as a recently engaged couple to try to ensnare the kidnapper, whose playset looks like something out of the "Saw" franchise, though confusing Oliver as they stumble into him walking into the same jewelry store that has a possible connection with the disappearance of Jimmy and Chloe. It was fun to watch the interaction between Lois and Clark. This is Durance's fifth season playing Lois, and I think this time around she's really grown as this character and made it her own.

Like I mentioned earlier, the masked kidnapper plays little games with his prey. Enforcing his code that lies only hurt the one you love, so he asks questions retaining to the loyalty and love that the abducted couples has to answer. If they fail the test, the other gets heavily shocked. Jimmy and Chloe get asked these questions, one actually stems from last week's Maxima episode. In the line of questioning, Chloe gets asked if she loves anybody else but Jimmy. To my surprise, the lie detector does not go off. Now we all know that Jimmy and Chloe do not end up together, so I'm wondering how this will play out in the end. Though, Chloe's answer to Jimmy as she passed the test seriously tugged at my heartstrings. After that, they are deemed truly in love and the kidnapper returns them home.

Back at Luthor Manor, Oliver visits Tess and offers to make peace over dinner. Though, in classic Smallville style, the two soon start combating with pool sticks. This scene to me was kind of...not put together well. As a theater major, you eventually learn the basic moves for stage combat, and what they did was pretty basic and simple. I would have thought of all people Oliver Queen would have been a better fighter. Especially up against the person who was supposed to be Lex's replacement on the show, to make her seem more intimidating. I personally would have gone with a different fight choreographer. After the skirmish, Tess is the victor and accepts Oliver's invitation to dinner and we delve more into the history of the two. Apparently, Oliver cheated on Tess years ago and she still holds it against him. Hell hath no fury...

So, Lois and Clark finally get kidnapped and are subjected to the same line of questions we witnessed Jimmy and Chloe go through. Clark tries to escape, but the twisted kidnapper just happens to wear a kryptonite bracelet and is rendered powerless. The questioning takes an interesting turn when Lois confesses to the man that herself and Clark are not really a couple, though he continues playing his sick little game. When the kidnapper asks if Lois sincerely loves Clark, she answers "yes". To Clark's bafflement, the machine does not go off. Getting into close range, the kidnapper gets headbutted by Clark and he then removes the kryptonite bracelet and throwing it down a drain. And like clockwork, Clark gets his powers back and saves the day. Back over with Jimmy and Chloe, Jimmy confesses that his parents aren't coming to the wedding. After the ordeal that they just endured, he has decided to be honest with Chloe. His father is not the rich man he made him out to be, but a drunk mechanic, and as for his mother? He's never even met her. Chloe doesn't care because she comforts him in knowing she is all the family he will need.

Later at the Daily Planet, Clark confronts Lois since he's been worried she might be avoiding him. Lois explains that she took off the sensor for the machine, so the kidnapper really did not get a straight result and would spare him the electrocution. I'm tempted to use my TiVo and watch it again, just to see if Lois is lying. We all know how this ends though. I almost wish they had added Lois around season six instead of four. Clark really hasn't had need of a "love interest" since either Lana, Chloe or Alicia were around to take that role. Also, I kept on hearing on how Tess will overshadow Lex's villainy. I, for one, would like to see more of her so that she becomes a more prominent fixture instead of just being Lex's replacement.

In conclusion, "Committed" was a so-so episode. We've seen these sort of things before, though it had a nice view of things to come. I'd like to ask the readers what they found appealing or annoying about this episode, and wonder when was the last time you were hurt by a loved one through deceit.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lock and load! 13 Chambers and Green Lantern #35

13 Chambers
Created and Written by Christopher "mink" Morrison
Art by Denis Medri
Coloring by Romina Denti
Covers by Paolo Parente
Lettering by Michael David Thomas
Published by Image Comics

Recently, Newsarama interviewed the creator and writer of this series, Christopher "Mink" Morrison, and he explained what it was all about. Well, I read the first issue this week and I'm interested in how it will play out. "Chambers" is a western set in an alternate history during 1860's. In this universe, thirteen U.S. marshalls, each carrying a high-tech 13-chambered pistol, have been enforcing the law until a new president deemed the weapons too dangerous. 13 Chambers is the point of view from the 13th Marshall, who was assigned to retrieve the other weapons and return them to President Jackson so they could be archived. All is going according to plan, until the Marshall arrives in a town known as Four Corners, where a tyrannic mining tycoon named York has killed the 12th Marshall and stolen one of the Peace Keeper pistols. Now, the Marshall must retrieve the pistol and bring the tyrant to justice...or die trying.

The issue starts off with a diagram of what one of the Peace Keeper pistols looks like. Beautifully drawn by Matthias Haddad, it shows how the chambers work with the multiple triggers on the handle. Denis Medri's style resembles a mix between modern artists Mark Brooks and J. Scott Campbell. Amazingly drawn figures as well as solid panels, complemented by Romina Denti's coloring skill, makes for one spectacular looking book. The first issue establishes the tone pretty well. A classic Western tale, similar to Michael Fleisher's run on "Jonah Hex", with a little bit of Indiana Jones sprinkled in.

The line between good and evil is drawn pretty well here. The hero is tough and handsome, the villain is sinister and resembles a combination of Voldemort from "Harry Potter" and Tex Hex from BraveStarr, making it easy to read and recommend. Perhaps I'm slightly biased, being a fan of the western genre, but I really appreciated this book and I am looking forward to what this title brings to the table. With the market saturated with tie-ins and continuity-heavy books, 13 Chambers is a pleasant addition to anyone's pull box.

Green Lantern #35 (DC; by Lan): Issue 35 is the finale of the Secret Origins, and once again the team of Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis and Oclar Albert make for a smashing good read. Interesting though, is that this issue doesn't do the DC usual of the first page being a splash page. There is not a whole lot of action going on in this issue, but the interaction between the rookie Hal Jordan and the more experienced Sinestro left me wanting one thing: a Sinestro origins mini-series showcasing him as the "greatest of the Green Lanterns". It's interesting to see Sinestro, one of comic's most heinous villains, as a hero and a mentor. We've heard the story numerous times about how great he was, but to have seen it is something else. Something great!
Overall, this was a solid issue. It brings some resolution to the arc, tying up some loose ends while giving a tug to a couple other loose ends. We get some nice "continuity nods" that long-time fans should be able to pick up on, that show that this story isn't ignoring what's come before. Even though this is the "post-Infinite Crisis" origin, nothing really changes or maybe I just didn't see it. As the conclusion of a story, I couldn't have been happier, but it gives us a glimpse of what's to come.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Witchblade #121..."Crown Heights" begins.

Witchblade #121
Story by Ron Marz
Art and Cover by Stjepan Sejic
Published by Top Cow

This issue kick starts the three-part "Crown Heights" storyline, in which partial Witchblade wielder(Dani Baptiste, the other half-wielder, is missing in this issue)/NYC Detective Sara Pezzini enters the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn to get to the bottom of some mysterious and gruesome deaths. Sara is also being followed by a mischievous reporter, who is close in finding her proof and revealing Sara's secret to the world. Though after a brief encounter, Sara investigates a nearby house and notices the door cracked open. Inside the women discover, what appears to be, a golem.

Stjepan Sejic is slowly becoming one of my favorite artists. The way how he works panels is almost like film direction. There are some panels that don't have any words or sound effects, but you hear the eeks and creaks of the alleyway. You can feel the steam from the shower and hear the water running full blast. His attention to detail make this issue all more the enjoyable. There's a sense of "being there" when he adds little things like reflections on the car windshields and his use of light is incredible. My only question is, when did Sara start looking like Denise Richards?

Ron Marz continues his legacy as modern master. Honestly, there is not a lot of action or fast-paced fighting in this issue. Though, Marz works his magic to build a story that is character-driven and captivating. The exquisite words and stellar art mesh well to start this event. Marz even treads on somewhat controversial matter with the Jewish and African-America communities and contempt they have for one another. I haven't picked up a Witchblade comic since the hype in the late 90's, though Marz's story-telling brought me back to Top Cow, and Sara just seems more intellegent and realistic since he took over. I'm intrigued to where Marz and Sejic will take this and if it's any indication from this first issue, I cannot wait.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Madame Mirage Vol 1 Trade & All Star Batman and Robin #10

Madame Mirage Vol. 1 Trade Paperback
Story by Paul Dini
Art by Kenneth Rocafort
Published by Top Cow

The story of murder, intrigue and revenge with superpowers, this is Madame Mirage. "Mirage" takes place in a world where superheroes are man-made creations through the advances in technology or bio-engineering to turn people into metahumans and metahumans into gods. Though when there are heroes, there must be villains. As people took advantage of the mega-tech for personal gain, the technology was banned, the superheroes became outlawed and the real outlaws went underground.

Aggressive Solutions Int. or A.S.I., is run by a cabal of villain groups. To the people, they are some kind of Los Angeles-based public relations firm or trouble-shooting agency. In reality, they are a front for a gang of powerful villains. All has gone well, until A.S.I. finds itself as a target of a relentless and violent vendetta by the mysterious woman calling herself Madame Mirage.
Paul Dini pitched the idea of Madame Mirage seven years prior to the first issue of the book. The early concept was pitched to an internet animation studio, where they wanted an action-driven femme fatale series. However, the studio had already gone out of business the weekend following the meeting. Following that, Dini put the Mirage pitch in the sketchbook where it remained for years until Jim McLauchlin came on board at Top Cow as an editor, and was interested in creating a new series about a tough new heroine and contacting Paul Dini. He brought back the Mirage concept, updated it because of how many years since the first pitch, and finally he started scripting the stories.

Dini compares Mirage to pulp hero The Shadow with a hint of Zatanna. Mirage employs various degrees of superpowers including mind control, "magic" and shape shifting in order to confound and destroy her enemies. To the point where she confronts an enemy, it is unknown what she will do or use to attack. It is worth noting that Madame Mirage and her visual appearance is based on his wife, Misty Lee, who is a magician and illusionist. The other thing about Mirage is that she has a younger sister named Harper, who acts as her backup on these missions against the A.S.I.

There is a plethora of twists and turns in this book that makes this title worthy to reckoned with. Some of which I don't care to mention because they would ruin a lot, including issue three in which we learn Mirage's origin. The action is superb and never dull. The book feels like a non-stop chase with Mirage just one step ahead of the bad guys. Dini weaves a tale of espionage and intrigue that we have not seen in comics in quite some time. Despite Dini's kid-friendly past with his DC superhero shows, Mirage is a book intended for mature readers with a climax that rivals "Kill Bill". Rocafort's art is simply ravishing. Madame Mirage will keep you guessing until the very end! The Volume 1 trade is the first story arc, but there will be another one coming out next year. Along with the issues, the extras are frosting on the cake. It has a cover gallery by Rocafort and variant covers by Greg Horn as well as initial sketch designs by Dini and Rocafort. It would be a crying shame for anybody to not pick up this collection if you missed out the first time around.

I'm the minority here when I claim I actually like this book. Sure, it's Sin City dialogue coming out of Gotham City's mouth, but I think the "All Star Batman" brand is merely misunderstood.
I have read quite a few interviews with authors, and being a aspiring writer myself I agree, some writers will sell rights to Hollywood for treatment of their material for the cash and for good reason. What do they care if Hollywood butchers it or not? It doesn't change the book, it will always be the same. If anything, it might generate more of an audience for the writer. And as for everyone stating that All Star Bats here isn't worth burning because it's not even worth a match, it's because its not Batman, well, its not suppose to be. If you want the Batman you know and love, just read that. Who wants to just see the same old? I compare it a lot to cover songs. I'm a sucker for a good cover song because I want to see someone else take on a song I may, or may not, already like. Its not the original, but I was never expecting the original in the first place. On that note, not all is lost as Jim Lee continues to give his all on this book. He's given multiple double-page spreads and splash pages to flex his artist muscle and, as always, nails them out of the park. Just like the best artists in the industry, Jim Lee delivers iconic images that pop off the page once his artist team of Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair get a hold of his work. It's just a shame that a Jim Lee and company drawn comic comes so rarely these days because I can never get enough of them. Some of my personal favorites from this month are the image of Batman holding a beaten Catwoman as well as Batman and Robin hitching a ride on a speeding train and to top it off, a touching moment between Jim Gordon and his daughter. That's just some "this is what comics are about" moments that this title is capable of.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #2

Billy Batson and the Magic of SHAZAM #2
Story and Art by Mike Kunkel
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics

After a delay, the second issue of "Billy Batson and the Magic of SHAZAM" finally came out, and just like the premiere issue, I could not wait to get a hold of it. It backtracks a little with the story of Billy being chosen by the wizard, Shazam, and became the World's Mightiest Mortal. It also explains that Billy was not, in fact, the first to have been chosen. That privilege belonged to a young man named Theo Adam. Though the Wizard soon realized that Theo Adam was not the champion he first thought he was and was exiled. Now, Theo Adam has returned as an emo/goth teenager with no knowledge of the word that transformed him into the Wizard's former champion. And boy is he pissed. Eventually Theo Adam learns of Billy's secret identity and quickly bullies young Billy and tries to force the magic word out of him.

Later, Billy confronts Shazam about Theo Adam and the Wizard tells of his past heir and the mistake he made. Soon Shazam discovers that something even worse has occurred: the Seven Deadly Sins are gone and have allied with Theo Adam.

Kunkel keeps the pages busy on this issues, almost a little too busy. Some pages have up to fifteen panels and it almost seems as if he is cramming too much, and I would hate to see younger readers confused. Though that slight fault is easily outweighed at the sheer brilliance of it all. Once again, Kunkel's art tells the story so well, half the time you don't need words. The way he works some panels almost in the way of animation is just astounding. His use of facial expressions rivals that of Kevin Maguire.

The story delves more into the Shazam mythos but doesn't weight the reader down with almost seventy years of continuity. It all feels fresh and new, almost as if Kunkel had created the Captain and his story himself instead of weaving his own spin on it all. I am a huge supporter of comics for kids and this title is the best one out there for ages eight and up. Hopefully, Kunkel has worked out the kinks and we will see this title on a more regular schedule.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dragon Prince #1 Review

Dragon Prince #1
Written by Ron Marz
Art by Lee Moder
Cover by Jeff Johnson and Stjepan Sejic
Published by Top Cow

Ron Marz (Green Lantern, Witchblade) and First Born: Aftermath artist Lee Moder have teamed up for Dragon Prince, which debuted on September 10th. Prince is a four-part miniseries that is a mix of modern day fantasy with martial arts action and mystic mayhem, and anybody a fan of the Jade Empire video game series or younger audiences that obsess over Ben 10 will surely get a kick out of the title.

Going through "the change" is never easy for teenagers, though Aaron Chang is going through something quite out of the ordinary. Aaron has always felt sort of ostracized by his peers because of his mixed heritage (his mother being Caucasian and his father being Asian) and often called things like "white rice". His mother is a fantasy writer, much to the chagrin of her son, who feels like he is too old for her "stories". One day at school however, he learns that he is very much indeed different from his school mates as he chars the school bully with his breath of fire. He returns home where his mother tells him of his true heritage. He is the Dragon Prince, last of his kind and heir to the bloodline of all dragons. Hunted to the brink of extinction by a secret society of magi, dragonkind's survival is now in Aaron's hands.

First off, let me just say I am a huge Ron Marz fan. He created my favorite Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), and his narratives for Witchblade have been the best since she burst onto the scene in the late '90s. He's made it more reader-friendly, which is always a plus in my eyes. While I'm not too familiar with Moder's art, I like his style. It's not too rendered and his panels are competent enough that anybody from the age of 8 to 80 can understand. The ink and coloring mesh well. Nothing is lost or overdone. This is a book I really want to pick up to see where it leads. I don't think there are enough "fantasy" books out in the market now. True, you could debate that all superhero books are fantasy, they are, but I'm talking about more in the style of the Wheel of Time, Harry Potter, The 10th Kingdom, etc. While I enjoyed Battle Chasers back in the day, the book almost never came out on time and I just lost interest.

Dragon Prince is a PG-rated book that could be picked up for ages 8 and up. I plan on picking up a few for my friends' kids. The fact that the protagonist is thirteen years-old should only make the book more related to the younger readers who loved the Eragon series (Aaron is actually seen reading that). I've been an advocate for comics being for kids again- the market has gotten almost too gritty and downright depressing with its focus on the "everything changes forever" storytelling. Dragon Prince isn't that. Yes, it's a big story which will leave our young protagonist changed, but its great storytelling, easily accessible, and...fun. While this was just the first issue, I'm expecting great things out of this story. More, please.