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.