Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The End is Nine, er, Nigh for 09 #7

How freaking awesome Detective Comics has been.

I mean SERIOUSLY. I know that I really loved Detective Comics last year, but Greg Rucka and J. H. Williams III have just been great here. Taking out Batman in place of Batwoman as the lead character, with a Question b-story by Rucka and Cully Hamner, is just a one-two punch. It's engaging, interesting, beautiful and easily one of my favorite runs of comics ever.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Top Cow talks about what lies ahead in 2010

At the beginning of this month, Ron Marz talked to Newsarama about the new mini-series coming out this week, Angelus, which showcases Dani Baptiste and the new direction her life is headed. However, Angelus is merely the start of a larger epic. Shipping in February, Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box tells the next chapter, centering around some familiar faces. Then comes the big event in April: Artifacts, which will take the Top Cow universe to a place it's never been before.

Newsarama talked to Top Cow scribe Ron Marz and publisher Filip Sablik to give us some insight on things to come with the upcoming events, starting with a quick sum up of Angelus:

"The story is definitely balanced between Dani's personal lilfe and her role as the Angelus. There's a lot going on in Dani's life during the series," said Marz. "She moves back to New Orleans, she has to sort out whether she's going to be in a relationship with another woman. And all of that is going on while she adjusts to her role as the Angelus, which includes a coup attempt by those who serve her, as well as a conflict with the Darkness, in the person of Jackie Estacado."

"One of the things Ron and I talked about when we were working on "War of the Witchblades" is that in a way, that story was the birth of a new hero in Dani becoming the Angelus," publisher Filip Salbik replied. "It was the origin story, if you will. In my mind, the Angelus limited series is Dani's 'Year One', the events that will define her as a hero and a character."

So, with that series in the works, Top Cow is about to unleash a new chapter in the "Broken Trinity" saga. Marz and Sablik explain it as something more than a standard Witchblade adventure.

"Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box is being written by Rob Levin and Bryan Edward Hill, who I like to think of as the "I Spy" team of the 21st century, except without the tennis pro cover," Marz joked. "It's very much set in the real world, like a globe-hopping big-budget action movie. It continues the stories of Finn and Glori, the characters we introduced in the "Broken Trinity" event I wrote last year. So Finn, who can become a frost giant, and Glori, who can transform into a dragon, are the fantasy elements, but they're placed in the real world. I think that's a really intriguing contrast."

Sablik went on to saying, "Yeah, I would describe Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box as more of a globe-hopping big-budget action movie. In tone and spirit, it takes inspiration from things like "Alias", "Indiana Jones", "James Bond", and "Tomb Raider". There are certainly supernatural, mystical elements to the series but it fills a very different space than Witchblade and The Darkness.

Marz explains that Artifacts was first talked about two years ago, and has been on the horizon for a while, but they're getting down to the nitty-gritty. "Issue #1 will be out in July, which sounds like it's far away, but it's really right around the corner in terms of publishing."

One of the big questions was about readers being able to understand the full story of Artifacts if they decide not to read Angelus or Pandora's Box. Marz has stated that Artifacts won't be like most crossovers where there are 3 dozen threads or anything like that, so Artifacts will be self-contained.

"Yeah, Artifacts will be a ground-floor read. Noobs will get everything they need to know within the story. So if someone is not reading Angelus or Broken Trinity, or heaven forbid even Witchblade and The Darkness, the story in Artifacts will still be completely accessible," said Marz. "The story is going to very literally redefine the Top Cow Universe, so part of my job early on is to establish who's who and what's what in the Top Cow Universe. You have to show the readers what's at stake in order for them to care."

"That's definitely one of the key things Ron and I talked about very early on when we began discussing the structure of Artifacts. We really want to make this the kind of event that if you've never read a Top Cow title, but you've been curious, you can walk into our biggest storyline to date and immediately be immersed," Sablik added. "It will hopefully make you want to go back and read the issues of Witchblade or The Darkness or other series that led into it, but it won't be necessary to understand what's going on in the series. My favorite part of the story Ron has come up with is that it has a very human element at its core. Even if you care nothing about the large Universe ramifications with the Artifacts, I think you'll be able to enjoy the journey the main characters go on."

Now, Top Cow has been around for a while now, but never has done this sort of "ultimate crossover event" and marketing this event is no easy task. "I've been amassing blackmail photos of all of the top one thousand direct market retailers for the last 3 years and it's finally time to make use of them. I'm kidding, of course," Sablik jokes. "We are going to be putting the full weight of our marketing behind this event series. You can actually already see teaser ads our monthly comics in the last month or two. The main thing will be building the excitement over the course of the next six months, releasing little bits of information a little bit at a time without spoiling the story. One of the other things we'll be doing is building towards the series in titles like Witchblade and The Darkness as well as limited series like Angelus and Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box. All of this hopefully will crescendo into a fever pitch around Comic-Con next year.

He goes on to say, "It is the must read title for 2010 in Top Cow. And I think I can say it's a must read for us because we've never done something like this before. And of course, there are difficulties in trying to pull something like this off."

Though, Sablik is confident in his team. "Fortunately, we have Ron Marz at the helm. Not only does he have experience in world building and writing sweeping epics like this, but he's also been the driving writing force in the Top Cow Universe for the last five years or so. We have other writers like Phil Hester, Rob Levin, and Bryan Edward Hill essentially acting as support for Ron and these are guys that Ron knows and already has relationships with. Marc Silvestri is providing his insight as well and adding to the big ideas at play here."

Sablik feels comfortable moving foward with this project for numerous reasons, but one stands out, "This isn't something we're doing because we need to fix continuity problems or capitalize on a trend. This story is a natural outgrowth of where the story of the Top Cow Universe has been going. It has evolved from the stories that Ron and Phil and others have been telling."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The End is Nine, er, Nigh for 09 #8

Heath Ledger wins Best Supporting Actor Oscar for "The Dark Knight

Talk about heart-wrenching. Now it would seem as much of a fan of this movie I am, this would be placed higher on this list. The truth of the matter, is that we all saw it coming. I mean, from the his introductory scene, we knew Ledger would make this movie, and his role is now legendary. In addition to being the second person to win an acting Oscar posthumously, it is also the first acting Oscar for a "genre" movie.

And the fact of the matter is, it was his award to lose. I felt almost bad for the rest of the nominees, they knew they weren't walking away with their gold naked man that night. I remember where I was that night and will never forget his father's speech.

RIP Heath. You were a man of your word.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Unwritten #8 review and DC Holiday Special!

The Unwritten #8
Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross
Colors by Chris Chuckry and Jeanne McGee
Letters byt Todd Lkein
Cover by Yuko Shimizu
Published by Vertigo Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

"Find your torch, and your wantd. It's up to us, Peter Price. If you're brave enough....we're going to rescue him."

While this issue doesn't resolve the cliffhanger from the last one, it does add a bit of depth to the story and shed some light on Governor Claude Chadron and his family. The action and fantasy level is grounded a bit, but Carey once again provides excellent story-telling that adds a little something extra to this already amazing cast of characters. Even though I was a bit agitated thatwe don't find out what happens to Tommy and Savoy or Chadron himself, the issue plays out like a prelude and has some fantastic character work here.

Tom himself only appears in a few panels since it retells events in the past issue when he arrives at the prison and explains why the Governor was so cold to him. He's not a bad guy or the cliche corrupted politician, it's just the Tommy Taylor books have affected his children (his daughter especially) in a negative way and Carey gives us a taste of the bad side of things in which otherwise had been pleasant family bonding with those stories. I really have to hand it to Carey for making me actually care about an otherwise background character. It expands to the suspense and does so without having to add anything supernatural.

These next 30 days to wait for the next installment are going to be painful.

I also have to say I love what Peter Gross did with the art here. He could have taken the easy (read: lazy) way and just swiped what he did in earlier issues, but he doesn't He rearranged panels, added new angles which just build on the experience of reading this title. The art is strong and meshed with Chuckry and McGee's use of coloring to add the proper mood and tone, it's just all the more amazing.

I can't wait to return to the main story, but The Unwritten #8 continues to build more and more in what is becoming my favorite book of the year. If you haven't experienced this book by now, I could not recommend it enough. However, be warned you cannot just simply pick up this book now if you haven't read the previous seven issues. It would be sort of like reading "Deathly Hallows" without reading books 1-6, and you wouldn't want that sort of confusion.

DC Holiday Special '09
Written by Various
Art by Various
Published by DC Comics
Review by Amanda McDonald and Lan Pitts

In a household where the collection of Batgirl figures now includes a variety of Santas and pine-scented candles, and the Nativity scene has one of Joker's Henchman riding a camel, Lan and Amanda take some time to review the DC Holiday Special for 2009.

Batman in Silent Knight: This story is. . . silent! Jay Faerber provides a wordless script for this first story of the book. What better way to start a collection of comic book stories than with a true example of sequential art? Peter Nguyen's art and colors nail this one, and set a great tone for the book.

Superman in Man of Snow: On his way to pick up a couple tins of caramel corn for Ma Kent, Superman encounters a Golem made of snow in this heart-warming story. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other winter holiday-- this story exemplifies how this season lifts our spirits.

Flash in the Flash Before Christmas: Now is this a great story. The Flash, Wally West, has a lot on his Christmas to-do list, and things don't always go according to plan for the Fastest Man Alive. However, all's well that ends well for the West clan for "the best Christmas ever". Creative panel construction and just an all-around feel good tale in this one. For a chuckle, notice who Wally delivers mail to.

Beast Boy & Doom Patrol in The Christmas of Doom: Sterling Gates (writer), Jonboy Meyers (art), and Chuck Pires (colors) team up to tell the story of why Beast Boy hates Christmas, and how he ends up getting the ultimate Christmas gift. A bit of a tear-jerker, but in an "awwww, how sweet" sort of way that so many classic holiday tales end.

Superboy in Party Gift: At a mystery party where rogues celebrate the Christmas spirit, nobody knows who is the gracious host, until Bizarro Superboy appears and confesses to be the one who had the idea. One thing that annoys me in comics today is the Bizarro syntax, especially in large doses. While a clever story, I only sort of "get it". I love Rodney Buchemi's pencils and character design. I just wonder how Superboy knew where to send all those invites.

Martian Manhunter in Reason for the Season: As a member of the Middleton City Homicide Squad, Detective "Jones" uses his skills to impress his coworkers, but finds himself missing home. The red of the season reminds him of the dunes of Mars, the green reminds him of his Martian race, even though he explains why the holiday messages were unnecessary due to their mind set. While the reader finds themselves idealizing that life, Jones comes around to the human way and finds himself surrounded by new friends from the force celebrating the season.

Angel & the Ape: In this short 5-panel story by Andrew Pepoy and Paul Mounts starring Angel O'Day and Sam Simeon, I love how Pepoy captured the Bob Oksner style of the characters. When asked by Angel to make a donation, a snotty businessman rejects her offer, but is intimidated by Sam into making a generable donation. Now that's teamwork.

Sgt. Rock in A Peace on Earth: Billy Tucci. Sgt. Rock. Christmas. 'Nuff said. The admiration Tucci has for Rock has been showcased before, but in this Christmas tale, there's just a little something extra. I love the use of grayscale and that the story of two soldiers from opposite sides can share a Christmas and exchange cognac and cigarettes. Peace on Earth, indeed.

Enemy Ace in Stille Nacht: I have limited knowledge and have had just as much exposure to Enemy Ace, but what I got out of this story, really stirred me. Howard Chaykin's art is astonishing and Edgar Delgado's coloring skills are superb. The best thing about this story is that it could have been anybody, and the message is the same.

B'wana Beast in The Hunt for Christmas: Nothing says Christmas like B'wana Beast. He stops a group of poachers and brings presents to a small village. He even wears a Santa hat. While the imagery is just utterly ridiculous, it strikes the right chord and is downright enjoyable.

Captain Marvel in Home for Christmas: In a one page short, Captain Marvel and Ibac face off, destroying a homeless shelter in the process. Agreeing to break from fighting, they rebuild the shelter and the relationship between them changes, right in line with the holiday spirit.

Deadman in Unbearable Loss: Suicidal over her son's actions, Scarecrow's mother encounters Deadman at precisely the right time in her life. Encouraging her to 'choose life,' not only does she embrace her own life, she changes the life of someone in great need.

Red Tornado in A Night Before Christmas Story: Picture this-- several last minute shoppers and a couple of apathetic store employees are trapped in a toy store with a Red Tornado in seek of the season's "it" toy for his daughter. Hrm. . . who do you think walks out of the store with a wrapped "Ecko Gecko"? The end of this story is a bit saccharine. But what the heck. . . that's par for the course this time of year.

Huntress in Naughty or Nice: J. Torres and Hubert Khan Michael turn out a great Huntress story that displays she can kick ass with the best of them. It's short, sweet, to the point and looks great.

Ragman in Seeing the Light: Wow, a Ragman story. You don't come across these much. I love how this goes back and forth between the story of the Maccabees and Ragman handing out some street justice. Rob Levin really delivered on the script and Brian Ching just nailed the art.

Adam Strange in Auld Lang Syne: Man, do I love me some Adam Strange. Shannon Eric Denton really knows how to tell a story and it is just solid. Now it's not really a Christmas story or anything like that, but since this is the last story in issue, I guess it's fitting it's sort of New Years related.

Yes, the Holiday Special is pricier than average books-- but it is the perfect stocking stuffer for the comic lover on your list. Errr. . . or for yourself. Or you know, there's nothing wrong with enjoying it before gifting it. Happy Holidays, 'Rama Readers!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The End is Nine, er, Nigh for 09 #9

Number 9 for 2009: Batman The Brave and the Bold.

Holy crap this show is good. Now, I know the series actually debuted late last year, but this year it has had some amazing episodes and a slew of DC's greatest to the most obscure (Bronze Tiger, anyone?), but has held it's own as what could be THE Batman show for this generation. I have reviewed it for Newsarama and have a regular weekly Post Game, so I might come off as a bit biased, but this educates new, and younger audiences about the huge roster of characters DC has besides the one that have been showcased over and over again, and even some new ones along the way.

I hope this show has time to grow and become the new standard on what DC animation could be. Yes, it is aimed at children, but if you lighten up a bit, you might have some fun along the way. I know I have.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The End is Nine, er, Nigh for 09 #10

I will be counting down the best of the year starting today.

These could be anything pop culture related: TV, comics, books, movies, video games. You name it. Also in addition things I experienced as well.

So let's start the list with Number 10 --

GI JOE: The Rise of Cobra.

Yes, you might remember my review a while back. I recently watched it again since Lew hadn't seen it. It did what it set out to do. Ninja on ninja fights. Laser fights. Destro looking like Destro. Origin story...all the while keeping the masturbation jokes (like another 80's cartoon turned big movie franchise) out of it and keeping it a pretty solid action movie. Eric, Paul, and I went to see this and just had tons of fun. The only problem is that the visual effects look like they were made using a PS2 engine and not something for a major motion picture.

Still, easily one of the more fun experiences going to the movies this year.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Spider-Man Noir: Eyes without a Face #1

Spider-Man Noir: Eyes Without a Face #1
Written by David Hine and Fabrice Sapolsky
Art by Carmine Di Giadomenico
Letters by David Lanphear
Cover by Patrick Zircher
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

"There's an odor. The last time I smelled it was the night Uncle Ben died. I know what it is...the stench of a slaughterhouse." -- Peter Parker, the Spider-Man

Three months after the events in first Spider-Man Noir and the death of the Goblin left a void of a crime boss and there is a new kingpin on the rise trying to ascend that throne. No, not the Kingpin, actually the writers took a different approach and went with a much lesser-known Spider-villain. The book takes place in a pivotal point in history as FDR was just elected, and the New Deal is slowly, but surely working to help people recover from the Great Depression.

When the "Noir" titles hit, I devoured them and this issue is no exception which sets up a multitude of things to come. As a history buff, I really appreciate certain things and love the look of it all. The use of coloring is superb and Carmine Di Domenico's style is somewhere between Tim Sale and Eric Canete, both of which I am huge fans of. The first issue introduces some old-school Spider-villains to the "Noir-world" including Doctor Octopus and the Sandman. The tone is a bit darker than the previous installment, but you can't help but dig these sort of stories that take familiar characters and put them in this kind of pulp-styled universe.

The dialog is smart and characterization can't be beat. I especially love what Hine and Sapolsky have done with Robbie Robertson here and it really works without deviating too much. Felicia Hardy returns, with her and Peter drawing the lines of their relationship. And what they did to Doctor Octopus? Genius, though I'm pretty sure I know where this is headed.

With the darker concepts and more violent elements, it might stir some Spider-Man fans away, however, I don't possibly think I could recommend something like this enough. If you're a fan of the Sandman Mystery Theatre stories or if you read any of the "Noir" books before, check this one out.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Green Lantern #48 review

Green Lantern #48
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke
Inks by Christian Alamy, Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen
Colors by Randy Mayor with Gabe Eltaeb
Letters by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

"We will find it, Green Lantern. And we will give everything we have to destroy it." -- Ganthet

Note: The events in this issue, occur before Blackest Night #6 and acts as sort of the beginning to Blackest Night #5. Savvy?

Since most of the action has been diverted to the plot in "Blackest Night", this issue is more of a set up and character establishing if anything else. Not to say it's boring or anything near that, just sort of takes a breather. Green Lantern #48 focuses on the poster boys/girls of each Corps: Hal Jordan (Green), Carol Ferris (Star Sapphire), Saint-Walker (Blue), Sinestro (Yellow), Larfleeze (Orange), Indigo-1 (Indigo...duh), and Atrocitus (Red). I love how each of these characters have their own distinct voice and really get a chance to be showcased. There is a hint of Atrocitus' background, and we realize just how of a tortured soul he is.

Also, I'm finding myself liking Larfleeze more and more. He blurs the line between amusing and horrifying quite well. You have to admit, it's just perfect for him to ask for his Corps' own Guardian. Like I mentioned, there is really great character development going on here.

Of course the inevitable happened and the Corps leaders forge an uneasy alliance for the time being to destroy the Black Lanterns and their source. Johns has really given us a fantastic story thus far regarding anything Green Lantern, and I'm sure the finale of this crossover will not disappoint. Doug Mahnke's art is a perfect match for this sort of story. It's dynamic and an excellent mix of superhero imagery to the subtle things like Sinesto's smug face. He's accompanied by two other inkers, and of course himself on inking duties as well, and you can see minor details to each character and how they differentiate.

You have to admire Johns for basically doing a balancing act between to huge stories. One, being the dead rising all over in the DC Universe and becoming Black Lanterns, and the other is the beginning to the War of Light. If you've been reading just "Blackest Night", I think you might want to pick this one for a better understanding as it provides a level of background going into Blackest Night #5 that I'm sure would help you enjoy the full scope of things.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

150th Mega Post. Interviews. Reviews....and all that jazz.

First up, it's the Batman: The Brave and the Bold season finale.

Batman: The Brave and The Bold -- "The Fate of Equinox"

"Justice wins the day thanks to the brave and the bold." -- Batman

The season finale opens up with armed guards on the lookout on top of a building. Batman, always on the prowl, knocks one out with his patented one-hitter-quitter and moves on to take down the other guard just as easily. Batman crashes down and is confronted by legendary Bat-villain, Two-Face. Two-Face & Co. surround Batman and he flips his coin on the decision to see if his henchman will kill the Dark Knight. It lands non-scarred face up... and surprisingly, Two-Face turns on the goons! Batman and Two-Face form a temporary alliance and defeat the hired help without breaking a sweat. To Batman's surprise, Harvey Dent then flips the coin again to see whether Two-Face gets Batman this time around. Too bad for Two-Face that Batman rushes and knocks him out.

After the jazzy intro, we see the Batplane flying over a jungle and a ancient temple. Batman climbs the staircase and then suddenly the temple starts crumbling and he's greeted by new Bat-baddie Equinox who invited him. Equinox explains his plan, which basically consists of halving the world in light and dark. A perfect balance, if you will. He is using some sort of a giant gyroscope that has some otherworldly powers to aid him in this goal. Luckily, Batman brought along Dr. Fate along for the ride. Equinox summons winged serpent creatures and Fate battles them with magic while Bats uses Nth metal knuckles to fight. Fate defeats the monsters, and then tries to get the jump on Equinox. Well, it is revealed that Equinox is the master of both Chaos and Order magic.

During his brawl with Batman, Equinox falls into that gyroscope and that triggers the temple to explode. Dr. Fate teleports him and Batman and both think that they got away too easy, as if Equinox wanted this to happen. Both can't agree on how to pursue the situation further, with Fate wanting to use magical techniques and Batman the more scientific approach. Though, when Batman's plane is transformed into a colossal red dragon, the two retreat to Fate's tower. When there, Fate meditates on the matter at hand, but something is terribly wrong. We cut to see Aquaman in his own realm, and Atlantis is under attack from sea monsters. Dr. Fate feels that it's the planet is fighting between order and chaos.

And he's right. The space-time continum has been unbalanced and we now have dinosaurs roaming the earth again. Worse yet, the shifting energies are affecting Fate's powers, making them weaker. He suggests that he and Batman acquire aid from his masters, the Lords of Order. Off they go to consult them and we learn a bit about Equinox's origin and his ultimate goal. The Lords sense Equinox's presence and try to overpower him, but Equinox soon drains the Lords of their power.

Now, Equinox has become, for lack of a better word, a god. Fate goes in with an attack, but Equinox reverses it. Fate realizes Equinox is too powerful for one hero and he summons all the heroes who have made a cameos during the season: The Flash (Jay Garrick), Hal Jordan, Fire, Red Tornado, Plastic Man, Aquaman, Black Canary, etc... and they are there to create a new hero out of all of their powers, with Batman becoming that hero. He is then transformed into a titan himself in spiffy new blue armor, all to clash it out with Equinox like a Godzilla movie. Batman tries using Fate's magic, but Equinox easily blocks it and he teleports both of them to outer space. Batman uses all of the heroes powers from Plastic Man's elasticity to Green Arrow's, well, arrows, to Beetle's cannons, but it seems that Equinox is still a bit too powerful for Batman, even with the combined strength.

Of course Batman being Batman, he convinces Equinox that he is indeed out of balance and therefore, imperfect. Equinox is now distracted, confused, and losing power. Batman swiftly punches him into the dark portal that Equinox was working on earlier and he returns to Earth and restores the powers of his friends. The balance has been restored, and our heroes have saved the day.

Brave and the Bold viewers, what did you think of "The Fate of Equinox"? I have to say that I didn't feel the tension with Equinox, or any real threat on his part since he's only made three appearances (you're more than welcome to correct me if I'm wrong). I didn't feel any connection towards him as a villain. I sort of wish they just went on ahead and used Libra, instead. I think it's interesting how Batman in this series is frequently in the craziest of circumstances, but this one felt a bit too heavy. Don't get me wrong, I love the series as a whole, but just wasn't really relating to anything in this episode. I did think it was pretty cool of Fate to combine the heroes' powers to morph Batman into this titan and duke it out with Equinox. I also think it was weird of Batman to argue with a wielder of Order magic on how to deal with somebody who possess both Chaos and Order magics. Common sense should dictate here, Batman.

Reportedly Season 2 of Batman: The Brave and the Bold will bring in more A-list names, but that's never been the lure of the show. I appreciate how they give coverage to all kinds of DC characters, not just the ones who already have a slew of merchandise. I'll continue watching, I just think they could have done better with this finale. Readers, I have two questions: One, what did you think of the finale; and two, who would you love to see grace this series with their presence?

Next up, is an interview, with Scott Burn, writer of the new Zenescope series, Agon.

Aliens. Gladiator-style competition. Possible genocide.

In January 2010, Zenescope expands their line from fantasy horror to science fiction. One of the first series to premier from their new direction promises action in a series of cinematic alien battles. Screenwriter turned comic scripter Scott Burn gave Newsarama this exclusive interview about his new limited series entitled Agon and what were the inspirations behind his creation.

Newsarama: So, Scott, for those of the readers out there unfamiliar with your works, mind if you tell what you've worked on before?

Scott Burn: I'm primarily an action/science fiction screenwriter. The other projects that I've written include Countdown (which was sold to Summit Entertainment), a story about a group of astronauts who land on a planet and find their own dead bodies. That's in development now and is based on a Richard Matheson short story called Death Ship. Last year I set up a script called Origin (Relativity Entertainment), a different sort of take on black holes and the origin of the species. And the first script I co-wrote called Redline (Bob Yari Productions) was about an FBI agent trying to catch a beautiful thief.

Nrama: What is the story of Agon? Better yet, what is Agon?

Burn: Agon is a Greek word meaning, among other things, "contest". The story is about an alien civilization coming to earth to tell us that we've reached a stage of enlightenment where we're invited to join an advanced alien hierarchy. But to do so, we have to compete against three other alien civilizations in battle. The winner gets to join. The losers have their entire species wiped out.

Nrama: What were the inspirations behind the look and feel of the book?

Burn: I'm a huge fan of the classic sci-fi writers like Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury. They have storylines that are epic in scope, but with many characters who are compelling to watch. And while there may be violence in the stories, they also pose really intriguing questions about the nature of humanity, and that drew me to this story. And I've been very fortunate to work with Joe and Ralph who brought in great artists who were able to capture the images I described almost exactly as I had them in my head.

Nrama: I love history, especially the ancient Greek era, did you take a lot from that time period such as architecture or borrow anything from mythology?

Burn: I majored in history in college, and I'm also very drawn to that period. However for the comic book, because the majority of it does not take place on earth, the story doesn't focus on Greek architecture or myth; except to the extent of exploring our original concept of mythology and Gods from the sky type ideas. There are some interesting theories about whether aliens were mistaken for gods in the early stages of mankind, and in that respect, mythology plays a role.

Nrama: Will this be an ongoing or limited series?

Burn: As of now, the plan is for Agon to be a 5 book series (plus the prequel).

Nrama: What are you hoping readers take with them after reading Agon?

Burn: While I hope readers enjoy the action and suspense of the story, I hope it goes a little deeper as well. The goal is to examine the nature of humanity...and whether you have to be human to possess it. Ultimately, I like stories that explore what is the nature of the species and that's what I've tried to do with Agon.

And finally, interview with Joe Brusha about Zenescope's upcoming Neverland.

Alice Liddle. Red Riding Hood. The Little Mermaid. You can now add Peter Pan's name to the list of characters Zenescope adapts into their popular Grimm Fairy Tales line. Zenescope is so excited about the new series, they recently announced a retailer guarantee, meaning retailers can return any unsold, undamaged copies that they order. The series also stands out as a new fantasy series amongst an expanding line of science fiction and more straight horror in 2010 for the publisher.

Newsarama talked exclusively to the writer of Neverland, Joe Brusha and what his take on the classic story entails in this seven issue mini-series.

Newsarama: How long has this been in the works?

Joe Brusha: This was one of the first stories ideas I had for the Grimm universe. I originally wrote it and did the research a few years so I can't be sure that every character from the original made it into this re-imagined version. But I don't think I missed any of the characters. Tiger Lilly, John & Michael, the mermaids and the Croc are all here as well as some new characters.

Nrama: Can you tell us a bit about those new characters?

Brusha: The main new Character is Johnathon Cross who is the hero of the series. He has elements of Hook from the original story, but basically he's a brand new character. As a boy he was abducted by Pan and taken to Neverland becoming the only victim who was ever able to escape. But he left behind his kid brother and the guilt over having to do that has pretty much destroyed his entire life. He gets a shot at redemption when he returns to Neverland to try to save Wendy's nephews John and Michael.

Nrama: Elements of Hook? How so?

Brusha: He has an actual hook and his hand was also bitten off by a crocodile. In the real world he has resorted to a life of crime and become a petty thief which is kind of like being a pirate. And when he's in Neverland he looks like a pirate.

Nrama: Can you tell us if popular Grimm Fairy Tales antagonist Belinda is involved somehow?

Brusha: Neither Belinda or Sela appear in this story. I actually wrote the first draft of Neverland a couple of years ago, before Belinda was even conceived as a character. Neverland is a very similar to Return to Wonderland in structure and while it ties into the Grimm universe it's a self contained story.

Nrama: What were some of the inspirations that went into the character design?

Brusha: Mostly from recent fantasy and horror films. Films like Lord of the Rings, Pan's Labyrinth and Pirates of the Carribean. For Pan I was thinking of a cross between an elf from Middle Earth, like Legolas, and some kind of Vampire. For creatures like the Croc and the Mermaids I wanted them to have a real monster/horror movie feel.

Nrama: Speaking of the art, can you reveal anything with the artist on board for this title?

Brusha: I can't right now. We had an artist assigned to the project but it hasn't been one hundred percent finalized yet. We should make an official announcement in about a week.

Nrama: This seems more like action/adventure than having Zenescope's brand of horror, were you aiming for that?

Brusha: There may be a little more action in this series than in some of our other Grimm Fairy Tales stories but not much. It has a good blend of horror and fantasy and it fits right into the Grimm universe without moving too far into a different genre.

Nrama: Would you consider this a great book to pick up if you aren't familiar with Grimm Fairy Tales and its history?

Brusha: I would but of course I wrote it so I'm partial. I think much like the Wonderland series this is a story that can be enjoyed even if you know absolutely nothing about Grimm Fairy Tales, Wonderland or even if you aren't that familiar with comic books as an entertainment medium. One of our goals as a company is to bring new readers and fans to the comic book industry and we've had a lot of success with that with our Grimm Fairy Tales books. I've had a lot of people tell me that Grimm or Return to Wonderland is the first comic they ever read. One of the good things about re-inventing classic fairy tales is that they are universally recognized which I think helps people to take a chance on them.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Blog@ interview with Adam Hughes via Blog@Newsarama

One year later…

While the Catwoman title may have been cancelled last Fall, Adam Hughes’ covers are hardly forgettable. He continues to exhibit the talent for which he is most known for. Newsarama briefly spoke to Adam Hughes on what it was like, literally, going back to the drawing board.

Blog@: So what was it like drawing Ms. Selina Kyle on her “resurrected” book? Bring back some fond memories?

AH: Yeah, and some regrets. I felt like I was finding my ‘zone’ in that last year on CATWOMAN; I was having ideas that were outside my usual box. Doing this cover reminded me of them. But it’s always great drawing Selina; she’s one of my favorite characters to draw. T’ain’t nothing like a bad girl gone good!

Blog@: How many drafts did you have before this particular one was selected?

AH: Just the one. I have an extremely subtle and streamlined work process with DC Comics Art Director Mark Chiarello, thanks to my years of doing covers for him. He said to me “Dan (DiDio) wants this certain vibe to the piece…” and explained the vibe, and I knew exactly what they wanted. It’s like an old-marriage where you can finish each others’ sentences. And eat their leftovers from the fridge.

Blog@: I guess you can’t give away any specific plot points, but what exactly is going on here on the cover?

AH: That’s OK: I don’t KNOW any specific plot points…! Basically, the feeling that DC wanted was akin to that moment in the 1925 Phantom of the Opera when the girl takes the mask from Lon Chaney’s head, and reveals his gruesome face. I didn’t want to ape that shot exactly, so I switched it so that the girl is in the front. Selina is finding a bloody face and is holding it up in a WTF?!? moment of dawning horror and the owner of the face is grasping at her from the shadows. Spooky stuff! Also, it’s my first zombie I’ve ever gotten to draw. Thanks, DC Comics, whee!!

You can get your paws on Catwoman #83 this January, ‘Rama readers.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Post Game: Batman: The Brave and the Bold -- Inisde the Outsiders

Batman: The Brave and The Bold -- "Inside the Outsiders"

"Yeah! What are Batman's happiest thoughts??" -- Black Lightning

"Inside the Outsiders" opens up with Green Arrow and Batman tied up to be lowered into a pit of wild cats by Catwoman. Now, I have to admit, I love the old-school Catwoman purple dress get-up and was pleased as punch when the creators of the show went with this costume choice. She has robbed a museum, of course to steal some golden cat statue. There is some banter between Batman and Catwoman, though GA thinks Bats and Catwoman are flirting (they might as well be), but Batman was distracting her and he cuts his and Arrow's bonds. The writers really displayed their chemistry well here, invoking the relationship between Batman and Catwoman from the 1960s live-action show. Batman and Catwoman spar for a bit and eventually he manages to tie up Catwoman using her own whip. Catwoman escapes but leaves her number with Batman. Ahh, true love...

After the theme song, we see Batman running and dodging a gauntlet set up inside Psycho Pirate's lair where he has the Outsiders in captivity. Pirate has some sort of device that is feeding off of their emotions, and giving him strength. Cunning and disciplined as always, Batman uses this same device on himself to enter a sort of dreamworld to find the young team and rescue them. First up we see Katana's origin. As a young girl in her native Japan, she had revealed the whereabouts of a prized sword to her master's enemy and is ordered to hide while her master, Takahiro, deals with the foe. She witnesses her sensei's death at the hands of his attacker, and Batman is trying to snap her out of the dream and make her realize this was not her fault. She is seeking revenge in the dream and that is, of course, making Psycho Pirate stronger since her rage is so intense. Batman stops her from killing the foe and they begin fighting each other. It's a brief sparring between the two with Batman coming up on top, and Katana comes to her senses. With that, Batman and Katana are able to move on to the next Outsider in need, Black Lightning. Mindful of Lightning's rough background with an impoverished upbringing, Batman prepares young Katana for a potentially bleak dreamworld, only...

The two enter BL's mind and find that he is outraged by the most mundane everyday things. Sprinkles on coffee, white after Labor Day, dogs using fire hydrants to do their business (apparently that last trauma cost Lightning a choice pair of sneakers), anything earns his electric scorn. Batman tries to calm him down, but nothing is helping. He's even angered by Batman's cape. While saving a bystander, Katana runs into Pirate and lowers her weapon. To further enrage Lightning, Pirate brings to life an annoying TV kid's show character to life to attack the heroes, a sort of Barney the Dinosaur creation in the form of unicorn. Batman convinces his teenaged charge (no pun intended) to refocus his rage and he conforms to Batman's lesson on calmness. Batman and the Outsiders succeeding now two out of three, Metamorpho is next and he doesn't look happy.

The dreamworld city they enter is destroyed and Metamorpho, taking various elemental shapes is continuously wrecking havoc. He becomes Godzilla-sized and his teammates are trying to figure out why. Turns out Psycho Pirate is taunting him and spreading lies in his ears about how Black Lightning and Katana call him names. Is this elementary school?? They try to subdue him and reason with him, reminding him that he isn't an outcast. BL is the first to talk, but Pirate keeps at it and Metamorpho becomes even bigger and continues to attack his friends while Batman goes after Pirate. When Pirate thinks he can drain Batman, he punches him trying to take him down. Katana actually speaks up and she talks to Morpho about why they formed the Outsiders and that he is not alone. Finally convinced by his friends, Metamorpho eventually withdraws and they share a hug. Back at Psycho Pirate's laboratory, Batman escapes from his "dream pod." He sees Pirate doing the same and flips a switch that appears to have killed them. Turns out they weren't in the real lab at all! Pirate was in Batman's mind all along! In order to physically take down the Pirate once and for all, Batman uncharacteristically channels his outwardly happy thoughts, issuing a series of blows that eventually defeats him. Refreshed since they're now out of their respective dream states, Black Lightning and the rest are ready to go at Psycho Pirate some more. But seeing that Batman is ready to take the high road with their defeated foe, the Outsiders wisely relent and decide that it's best to let the police deal with him.

Interview with Jerry Brown, writer of "Merc: Broken World"

Zenescope Studios are mainly known for the horror stories and retelling of fairy tales. They're taking a different approach this time around with Merc: Broken World, a noir story with a sci-fi edge. Newsara recently had a chance to talk with the writer of the series, Jerry Brown, though managing and scheduling was interesting because Brown resides in city of Adelaide which is in the South Australia time zone. He gives us a peek inside the details and imagery of this out-of-this-world realm.

Newsarama: So, Jerry, what is “Merc” about?

Jerry Brown: On the surface, Merc is a pretty straight cyberpunk story. Noir characters, Fortune 500 industrial warfare, technology gangs, NRA approved cybernetics—all the elements people have been tooling with for years. My goal was to pull it all together in a fresh way.

The main character is Sonny Grissom. Sonny is a merc, which is a cybernetically enhanced, industrial saboteur. Basically, he's a walking death machine, who gets paid to blow-up cola botteling plants, cap crooked CFOs and steal patent applications.
Mercs make a ton of money, live like kings, party like rock stars and every one of them dies in less than 10 years from all the neural stimulants and immune suppressors they need to perform their jobs. And those last few years of life are an utter nightmare. Failing kidneys, crippling arthritis. They live in constant pain, except for the few brief minutes when they get to fire-up the drugs and storm around like living gods—then it's back to being an invalid.

That's where Sonny is. He's one of the most succesful mercs out there, but his body has been completely demolished from all the punishment. He has six months to live, and he knows that he's wasted his life.

He takes a contract to perform a pretty high-risk task, only it turns out to be much-much more than that. That's all I really want to say about the plot. The story evolves and has a few twists and I'd like to leave them for the readers to find out.

NRAMA: What were some of your influences on the imagery and the design of the characters?

JB: Merc is a study of self-mutilation. I am facinated by the human obsession with distorting our bodies.

Piercings, tattoos, steroids. It's one thing to dye your hair. It's another to push a plug of stainless steel through your face. And when it's taken to its extreme it's really interesting, because extremes are always interesting. The first time I saw someone with a phone looped out of their ear I thought, wow, we're really starting to Borg. It's actually going to happen.
Ray Kurzweil posed a facinating question about when augmentation crosses the line.

How many circuits can you add to a human brain before that brain is no longer human?

The characters of Merc reflect this question. Every character is a freakshow, either by choice or by circumstance. Some have lost their humanity, others hold on to it more dearly for having been denied normality by fate.

NRAMA: Why did you choose to set your story in a cyberpunk realm?

JB: The core machinery of the plot could certainly have been used in different settings, but the avenues

I wanted to explore with Sonny's character could only be realized in a cyberpunk world. To be honest, I haven't been the biggest fan of cyberpunk. I think the punk aspect of the genre drives writers to write about minor players doing peon jobs, who get caught up in big things. It's a perfectly valid way to go, but my eye was always drawn to the flashy stuff—the bodyguards and hit men, who've turned themselves into freaks so they can do their jobs.

The complexities arise when you meet these characters at the end of their cycles. Now they're paying the price for all that power. You see this in ex-pro football players, who look back and say, “I can't believe what I did to myself back then.” I find it very compelling, and I wanted to write a character who's experienced a level of human performance far beyond what I could ever know, and is now paying the price. Cyberpunk was the best way to do it.

NRAMA: Who is the artist you're collaborating with?

JB: The artist is Daniel Schneider, and his work was built on concept art by Claudio Sepulveda.

Dan has done a great job, working on a very tight schedule. Because the characters are so physically mangled, there's a lot of room for interpretation. In a few cases I was quite specific about what was needed, but for the most part I've left it for Dan to decide how to achieve the desired effects. It's worked out great. The only change I've requested was on a panel he executed precisely the way I'd described it—which revealed a flaw in my approach and better way to do it.

NRAMA: Now this isn't your first gig in comics is it? For those of you unfamiliar with your work, tell us a bit about yourself.

JB: I actually come from the film world. I did a draft of Lobo for Warner Brothers (the draft prior to Don Payne's draft), worked on Romeo Must Die, worked with Alex Proyas and did bunch of other stuff that's stuck in development purgatory (which is a tad better than development hell).

A few years back I did a monstrously ambitious series of books for Humanoids Publishing,

called METAL. Two of the books were completed (108 pages), but the artist (Butch Guice) has

never done the art for the third book. Consequently, only two books were published and they were in in French (so, I can't even read them). Humanoids really wants to do a US release, but can't without the third book. It was an incredibly frustrating experience and turned me off doing comics for years. This is the first time I've come back to them since then.

NRAMA: Who are some of your influences as a writer?

JB: I'm real old school. Harlan Ellison would be my number #1 influence. After that, Robert Bloch, A.E. Van Vogt, Clark, [Isaac] Asimov, Bester, Farmer, Lovecraft. Frank Miller changed my sense of what was possible with Hard Boiled and Sin City, but I don't have a solid comic background.
In film, James Cameron is one hell of a writer. Critics take pot shots at his dialogue, but I couldn't disagree more. When you're writing sci-fi movie dialogue, you're always just two seconds away from utter idiocy. It takes incredible vigillance to keep your characters from sounding like Ed Wood creations.

Lately, I find games are really coming up fast as a true art form. I'm playing Fallout 3 now and I find the level of immersion—the level to which I care about what's going on—is approaching what a good book can do. It used to be games were just fear, but they're going after the bigger stuff now; hope, regret, situations with unintended consequences. Gears of War had some real characters too.

It's interesting that at a time when so much of the world is being reduced to porn—to the most stripped down components of ideas—that games are raising their standards and striving to tell more complex stories. I heard one game designer say that they feel a real pressure to try to hit it out of the park every time. I think that's exactly how it should be. It's what I strive for. Hopefully, Merc will deliver that.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Shining Force: A week later...

I have to admit, I've been shirking playing my SF. I'm in Chapter 3, in the Laser Eye battle right now. I just promoted a slew of people including Zylo and Gong (who I never used as a kid). I was thinking of using Amon and Balbaroy, but they are too difficult to level up right now. I forgot how slow they are when you first get them. My team consists of Tao, Mae, Arthur, Gong, Zylo, Hans, Diane, Khris, Anri, Gort, Luke, and of course the main character. Now I know it seems funny to have Khris, but she's a really good healer and Lowe doesn't know Aura, plus Gong can also fight back. I will eventually replace Diane later and keep Hans. Range is the key for the later battles.

I like having at least two warriors/tanks/whatever you call a strong person now in your team and Gort really fills out nicely. His defense is super from the start and only gets better when you get him promoted. The toughest battle so far is anything dealing with the undead because they have such HIGH defense. I'm so use to playing other tactics games for years now, I haven't gotten use to using items like herbs and such. Though I have two healers and they seem to get the job done. I just need to make sure Khris actually gets XP during fights instead of getting one-hitter-quitters from damn pegasus knights.

Oh the pains of being a deer...girl...thing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Blackest Night #4

Blackest Night #4
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert & Joe Prado
Coloring by Alex Sinclair
Published by DC Comics

"But I also know you came back. You're here. And, sorry for the pun, Pal, but it's time to grow the hell up and be the Atom again." -- Barry Allen, The Flash

Blackest Night #4 differs from the previous installments since Hal Jordan is being focused on in "Green Lantern," this issue has Barry Allen being the centerpiece. Rallying the troops, handing out advice, you know, basically what the character is all about. However, how it's the same is that the fourth installment of this event definitely doesn't pull any punches or hold anything back.

Barry is joined by the Atom and Aquaman's former flame, Mera as they are constantly trying to outrun the Black Lanterns. Of course, Ray Palmer proves he is the smartest man in the DC universe and the trio manage to stay one step ahead. They are eventually joined by the Justice Society, unfortunately, they are also joined by living-impaired members of the JSA and Freedom Fighters. There's an almost heartbreaking moment between a father and a son and, as one would expect from this event, the casualties continue to rise.

Johns continues his reign as one of DC's top storytellers, though the word balloons do get a bit distracting at times. There is a great balance between great superhero moments in addition to memorable character-driven ones. This no-holds-barred script had me finding a nice assortment of "DC's deceased Who's Who" throughout the pages, including a few I never thought I'd see. Ivan Reis and company nail the story's mood and atmosphere splendidly, though there weren't too many pages where I pored over the art like I have before, but nothing constructed too awkwardly or confusing.

I guess the major disappointment was knowing who the baddie is behind the curtains, as the final page reveals. If you don't know, then I will not spoil it. Blackest Night continues to be a thrilling event, but twenty-five pages of story for $3.99 seems a bit hefty. I could have done without the gun-toting "Batman/Doc Savage" preview.

Reasons why Sega rocked: Shining Force

If I could pin-point a game that defined my childhood, this would be it. Shining Force was released in 1993 for the Sega Genesis and while simple to today's standards, this opened the flood gates to the style of games I would play to this day. The story is a bit cliche, with an ancient evil being woken and summoning its dark forces and you, a young ward to a great knight, assemble a team together to thwart these forces. You are the Shining Force, though it is never revealed why your team is called the Shining Force. Though it's just assumed you are the shining light to Dark Dragon's shadow.

There's knights (who are actually centaur, so that works out just fine), monks, elves, dwarves, mages, archers, a werewolf, a dragon, some sort of jellyfish,and how could you forget the hamster with a helmet? There's a ninja and a Samurai, but that's not until later in the game and they're secret characters. It's quite the motley crew. I remember at one point my mother just buying this game because we had already spent so much money renting it from our local Blockbuster.

My brother and I must have easily put a year of time just playing and replaying this game over and over. There was a re-release for the GBA in 2004. I played it, but it was so different, it just didn't seem right, though the actual translation of the game was clearer, ie, it basically told us that Kain and Max were brothers instead of it being hinted at. I just got the emulator for the original (I just started. I'm on the second battle heading BACK to Guardiana and I just got Gong from his hut), and once I beat this sucker for the trillionth time, I'm probably going to move on to talk about the sequel, appropriately titled: Shining Force II.

Monday, October 26, 2009

DC Halloween Special. ooooh spoooooooky!

DC's Halloween Special '09
Written by Various
Art by Various
Published by DC Comics
Review by Lan Pitts and Amanda McDonald

This is another one of DC's sometimes spooky takes on Halloween. It's billed as containing "13 All-New Tales of Terror," and that's a bit of an understatement. Last year's was okay at best, but this year seems to have a bit more treats than tricks. There is a major assortment of talent going on here and a who's who from Billy Tucci to Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani. So, let's see what this year's special has in store.

This year, the special is bookended by a Bizarro story by Jake Black (Ender's Game), and while it's difficult to understand the over use of the Bizarro language, I got the gist of the situation. Bizarro wants to make sure that everybody has a happy Halloween and at the end, we see DC editorial as Bizarro World citizens.

In the next story we see Guy Gardner trying to plan a massive Halloween party on Oa and inviting his fellow Corps members as well as his girlfriend, Ice. Though Ice originally tells Guy she has plans with Fire later, she surprises him at the party with an interesting choice for a costume. It's a fluff piece that really didn't need Guy's backstory about his abusive father. "Halloween the Guy Way" is written by Adam Schlagman (Strange Adventures, Supergirl) and the dialogue seems like it was written by a sixteen year old who trolls fanfic forums. For example, Guy telling Kyle that there will be a costume contest and how it'll be like a "Cowboy's cheerleader competition." Kyle's response? "Guy, I already have a woman." As a Kyle fan, those words just don't seem right coming out of his mouth. The art is done by Mark Bagley and I have to give him props for remembering that Kyle is part Mexican and is shown as much. I also loved the Halloween party splash page where you might spot Sorcerer Supreme and wall-crawler wannabes.

Duncan Rouleau (Ben 10, X-Men Unlimited) gives us a Creeper page in which I'm really not sure what is going on. I dig the art style though.

One of the longer stories in the issue is "Seeing is Believing," an Outsiders piece with the distinct art of Kelley Jones and craftily written by Michael Siglain. Filling in for Batman, the Outsiders are sent to disrupt a cult ceremony performed every three years to summon their queen from the dead. Having never read any Outsiders, I really enjoyed this story. The team dynamics are intriguing and they do a great job kicking ass. I may have to seek out some books at my shop. After the Outsiders depart, Deborah Dancer resurrects Andrew Bennett, from I. . . Vampire-- another series I wasn't familiar with. Thanks DC Halloween Special, now I have to go buy more books!

Leave it to Art Baltazar and Franco to write a story that makes me chuckle aloud. While I'm biased, and would have preferred to see this story in Tiny Titan's style (imagine-- a ballroom of grown ups in that style!), Sergio Carrera does a nice job keeping the panels simple enough as not to distract from the heavy dialogue of the first couple pages. Having a charity ball at Wayne Manor, Bruce is upset that Alfred has allowed Dick to go out trick or treating. Killer Moth crashes the party, but makes an ill-fated decision to answer the door for a couple of trick or treaters. Critiquing their costume choices, he gets quite a surprise.

Derek Fridolfs comes out from behind of the inker's table, well sort of, to write Robin (Damian Wayne) in his first solo adventure. Fridolfs is teamed with his partner-in-art, Dustin Nguyen, and of course the art looks dynamite. After being bored, Robin goes after a new Gotham villain, Sugar Tooth, a former dentist who went mad after the Joker killed his two daughters. Fridolfs gets the right feel for Damian and the narration is spot-on. This is probably one of the stronger stories in this collection.
After we see Damian, next is another Robin story. This time, it's Tim Drake aka Red Robin. I think the art would have looked better as a black and white story because I wasn't feeling Michael Atiyeh's colors on Matt Triano's heavy-lined, chunky style. Ariel Thomas really dives deep into Drake's psyche, but it borderlines depressing. I do love the Dia de Muertos setting, though.

We are then treated to a short and sweet Ravager page. Great team up with Amy Wolfram and the art team of Pow Rodrix and Marlo Alquiza. Ravager gives a little a "peek" show to some trick-or-treaters that I don't think they were expecting.

After that, we get the best story in the assortment. Kid Flash (Bart Allen) goes up against Mirror Master that is a sort of a take on the old Bloody Mary myth. Very creepy. It's solid through and through with probably the scariest twist in the whole book. Joe Harris (Creepy) has a good feel for these characters as well as what Halloween is all about. Andrei Bressan and Marcelo Maiolo make a terrifyingly good team that really delivers.

Another one page by Amy Wolfram (though on the page itself, her name is misspelled as "Wolfman"), is a fun quick story that breaks up the book nicely. In "Never Too Old," we see Beast Boy experience that point that has pained us all-- being told he is too old for trick or treating.

Hanging out with her girlfriends and watching a spooky TV special on "The Forest Lady," Wonder Woman feels disturbed (though the ladies tease her that she's scared), and decides to head home. As she exits, she sees Wonder Girl, Miss Martian, and Aquagirl fly off to see if they can find out if the Forest Lady is real. Following them, she's creeped out by the forest and talking to herself. As she hears noises from a cave, she spies the girls. What she doesn't see, nor do they, is what we get to see in the last panel. Quite creepy, indeed. Ulises Arreola's colors are quite a delightful treat to balance the trick in this story.

Billy Tucci writes and provides the art for the next story that has a certain charm to it. What we think is another take on yet another Superman and Flash race, but is not what it really appears. It's a nice fluff story that is my second favorite of the issue. I don't consider myself a Flash fan, but both my favorites in this book are Flash-centric. Interesting.

So, if Lois and Clark were to choose Halloween costumes, what do you think they would choose? According to Joshua Williamson in "My Turn to be Scary," they would be Daphne and Fred of Scooby-Doo fame. Working at the Daily Planet's annual Grim Reaper Haunted Office Tour for kids, they encounter a group of spoil-sport hoodlums and decide to take them on a "private" tour. Using his superpowers to both lead the tour and appear as the grim reaper, Supes enjoys his chance to be scary for once. However, is he the only one enjoying scaring everyone? It appears not. . . . This story is a nice blend of fun and fright, leading into the end of the book itself.

The cost for this one is a bit heftier than other books, but for thirteen stories, and relatively few ads it is well worth it. DC's Halloween Special '09 was truly a treat to enjoy. As we sit here with our pumpkins waiting to be carved and a bowl of candy we keep sneaking our favorites from, reading this book was a great way to get into the holiday spirit.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Anchor #1 review

The Anchor #1
Written by Phil Hester
Art by Brian Churilla
Colors by Matthew Wilson
Letters by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Lan Pitts

Now this is a dynamite premiere issue. I'm rarely disappointed with a Phil Hester story, and The Anchor is no exception to that rule. The story is pretty simple, yet layered in a supernatural tone that I am usually drawn to. The Anchor tells the tale of a colossal outcast who wanted refuge in the ruins of an ancient monastery and offered in return the one thing he had to give: his fists. Soon, he was transformed into an immortal warrior monk who stands gates of Hell itself to keep our world free from its invading armies. Later, he is mysteriously tricked into centuries of deep sleep, but is awoken to fight the creatures that escaped Hell while he slept.

Now the imagery is widely compared to The Goon or Hellboy, but I think Churilla has his own sort of style. He's more cartoonish than Mignola or Powell and it does a balancing act between cartoon so you can laugh at the funny moments, but doesn't take you out of the more serious, intense or violent ones. It's beautifully drawn and colored and strong composition.

I love how he is introduced to humanity, but he's so mysterious, I can't wait to read what happens next. Anchor or Clem has he is soon nicknamed (after St. Clement, whose symbol is, you guessed it: an anchor). Like I mentioned previously, some comparisons will be made between this and Hellboy. Well, let me put this way: Hellboy works for the United States government, while Clem here, answers to only God. Also, any human characteristics that HB has such as doubt, Anchor seems to be void of. He is a Divine punching machine and does a damn good job of it.

So, bottom line, give this a try. If you're into the more supernatural titles out there, this is definitely for you. It's a strong debut that doesn't let up and is a perfect addition to BOOM!'s already impressive character roster. It's poetic, intense and just fun. The Anchor has found a place in my pull box.

Post Game: Batman: The Brave and the Bold -- When OMAC Attacks

Batman: The Brave and The Bold

"When OMAC Attacks"

"Hit hard or not at all, I always say." -- OMAC

Finally. After waiting months for new episodes of "Batman: The Brave and The Bold", it's back on! Now the thing is, Season One isn't technically over yet. We still have three episodes left until Season Two officially starts. I'm ridiculously envious of our readers from the U.K. or Australia who have already seen these episodes for almost a month now. Oh, well! Patience is a virtue I suppose.

We start this episode with in outer space with Batman being accompanied by Hawk and Dove. There have been a few Hawk and Dove incarnations, but they kept to the original duo: Hank and Don Hall. Of course they are shown fighting and squabbling over how to handle the current situation, which happens to be Batman trying to bring peace between two alien nations. Batman assigns the brothers to take out the ground troops while he handles the remaining warships. So Hawk and Dove spring into action, all the while bickering back and forth, but I liked how they made Dove not so much of a pushover pacifist. Later, Batman uses some sort of nullifier beam and takes out the warships and overhears Hawk and Dove fighting and thinks to himself "Lucky for me, I was an only child." Back on the ground, Batman has a peace treaty written up and the two alien leaders sign up. Who knew that also with being the world's greatest detective, he also excels in the field of interplanetary diplomacy. So after the aliens sign the treaty, Hawk and Dove start fighting again and Batman escorts the aliens away to his ship so they can toast to peace while the brothers duke it out. I'm not sure why Batman would think that bringing those guys into this sort of thing would seem like a good idea (he actually thinks to himself again about how he should have brought the Green Lanterns instead), but the rest of the episode deals heavily with war and peace subtexts.

Back on Earth, Batman is confronted by the Global Peace Agency, or GPA and they are disappointed in the fact that he has not caught a Russian general by the name of Kafka, who they claim is to disrupt the balance of the world's power. Apparently he is developing some sort of transient organic metal. So that Batman is assured a victory, he will be assigned a partner. The GPA tells Batman that the bumbling Buddy Blank will be his partner, Batman is a bit quizzical about this notion until the GPA activates Buddy's Brother Eye. Suddenly, Buddy is molecularly rearranged to become OMAC (voiced by Jeff Bennett), the One-Man Army Corps. OMAC has no memory of becoming Buddy or vice versa, and the two are sent to Kafka's base where he is developing the metal. Of course while Batman tries to take the more stealthy approach, OMAC is having none of that and goes fists first (after a small upgrade from Brother Eye) into the fray.

Once inside, OMAC goes after Kafka but one of his beams is misdirected and Kafka's body gets flooded with that organic metal. Also, enter Equinox (voiced by Oded Fehr). Now, we've seen him before, but this episode hints at him being actually more powerful than originally hinted. Anyways, OMAC destroys the base and think that he's defeated Kafka, though that's not how things turn out. Kafka emerges from he wreckage as Shrapnel. Now, Shrapnel from the comics was simply deranged and mainly a Doom Patrol adversary, but this version is based off of the OMAC villain who was from the future, so it's still technically DC Universe canon. A skirmish breaks out, and OMAC's powers are disabled when the link to Brother Eye (the eye symbol on his chest) is punctured by a shard made by Shrapnel. Forced to retreat, the GPA is again angered at Batman, especially this time with their human weapon malfunctioning. In the infirmary, Batman tries to console Buddy who feels inadequate, but just then Shrapnel is seen advancing towards the city and of course, OMAC emerges again goes after Shrapnel. Equinox then appears to Batman again and continues with his talk of balance and it appears that he is behind the fight between OMAC and Shrapnel.

Meanwhile the fight between OMAC and Shrapnel gets more intense and explosive. Shrapnel explains that the GPA came to his village and destroyed it and he wants revenge. They continue the brawl into a nuclear power plant where some serious damage is done. A meltdown is now imminent though they still continue to fight. Batman tries to stop the meltdown, but guess who, Equinox with more talk of balance how Batman should appreciate that since he is equal parts dark and light.

OMAC has been trying his best to physically beat Shrapnel, but he's figured out that hitting him only makes him stronger. He tells Brother Eye to concentrate the rest of its power on shields and defense. Shrapnel's powers come from other people's energy and once OMAC essentially gives up, Shrapnel is powerless and easily taken down and wrapped up. Of course that has drained all of Brother Eye's power and OMAC transforms back to a very confused Buddy Blank who witnesses Batman take a beating or two by Equinox and decides to jump into action by tackling Equinox to the ground while Batman darts for the central control and tries to abort the meltdown. He succeeds, but barely. The radiation took its toll and he is weakened and dying. That is until Equinox shows up for the last time. Batman exclaims that he is in control of his own fate, but Equinox begs to differ. He heals Batman and even repairs his torn costume, but vanishes in a way that reminded me of Quantum Leap just as Buddy came in to help Batman out of the plant. Of course Buddy is ecstatic that he took on a supervillain, but Batman hints that we haven't seen the last of Equinox.

What did I think of this episode? Well, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko creations in the same episode was all-out awesome. The action was fast-paced, but almost too prominent where it seemed like there was always fighting going on. I guess we have to wait to see what Equinox's game is. I like how they used Fehr's voice as he has voiced DC characters before (he was Dr. Fate on JLU). I waited so long for this show, and I'm glad it's back. I just wish Cartoon Network would plug this show now that it has returned. I didn't see hardly any promotional ads for its return or anything. That's kind of sad in my opinion.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blackbeard: Legend of the Pyrate King #1

Blackbeard: Legend of the Pyrate King #1 -- Advanced look
Written by Robert Place Napton and Jamie Nash
Story by Gregg Hale and Eduardo Sanchez
Art by Mario Guevara
Colors by Romulo Fajarado, jr
Letters by Bill Tortolini
Research by Steve Fussell
Published by Dynamite Entertainment

It would seem to me that having two people come up with the story, one person for actual research, and then two different people actually writing the script, you would come up with something better than bland. The thing is, the story was actually conceived by a writer (Sanchez) and a producer (Hale) of The Blair Witch Project, and maybe it's just me, but I expected a bit more, especially for an inaugural issue like this.

Now, it's not horrid or unreadable by any means, just underwhelming. It is fascinating to see Teach in the spotlight as some sort of hero. I know the book not going to be entirely historically accurate or going to be some sort of epic bio-comic, it just came off as run-of-the-mill. It opens with a massive storm at sea with Edward Teach, not yet called by his infamous name, ordering his crewmen and the scene is spliced with flashbacks of his childhood. The captain of the ship is a man by the name of Richards and keeps a stern hand and sterner lash.

Through a series of events, we see Teach as a role as the mentor and caretaker of his fellow crewmen. The scenes are beautifully drawn and the panel construction is overall solid. Fajarado, jr's coloring adds a a nice layer over Guevara's pencils and the two styles mesh well together.

Some pirate fans are probably going to buy this anyway, and I support that. This was made for you out there. I might check out the trade if I hear things have improved, plus I'm a history nut and kind of interested to see if they're going to take more liberties or stick to the story.

Monday, October 12, 2009

triple feature yet again! Moon Knight, Dr. Voodoo and Zenescope's Little Mermaid

In case you missed it...

The Little Mermaid Collection
Written by: Raven Gregory & Linda Ly
Pencils by: Claudio Sepulveda
Colors by: Nei Ruffino
Letters by: Alphabet Studios
Published by Zenescope Entertainment
Review by Lan Pitts

This ain't your baby sister's Little Mermaid. Not by a long shot.

In the spirit of Zenescope's style of reimagining fairy tales and such, comes The Little Mermaid. Now, this isn't the story you may know unless you're familiar with the Hans Christian Anderson version of the story. It starts out the way most remember it, a shipwreck with a prince going overboard and rescued by a mermaid princess. Ah, nautical love.

Well, I'm sure you know how the story goes from there: mermaid princess falls in love with prince, makes deal with Sea Witch, becomes mute, gets her heart broken, and...gets ripped in half by the Sea Witch and her remains eaten by sharks? Oh right, this is Zenescope. Meanwhile, there is another story that parallel's the Mermaid's tale going on featuring the same themes as love, lust, betrayal, and of course Grimm Fairy Tales' recurring antagonist, Belinda. Belinda approaches Lucy, a woman who lives with her young daughter Sara, who is trying to get out of her mother's white trash shadow. Both the mermaid and Sara take some ill advice and both pay the price in their own way.

Originally published as Grimm Fairy Tales #25 and 26, it is now collected into this 56-page issue. There is some really good stuff in here. Claudio Sepulveda draws some amazing landscapes and the opening sequence with the shipwreck is phenomenal. Of course, being aided by Nei Ruffino on colors doesn't hurt either. While Sepulveda does need to improve on his facial constructions, I wasn't turned off or taken out of the story. Speaking of the story, I feel it was too loose in some parts, mainly the motivation of Lucy to use Sara the way she did and why she was listening to Belinda of all people.

All in all, with this collection, you can really see that Zenescope is attempting to step up their game with fantastic visuals and layered stories worth reading.

Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #1
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Jefte Palo
Colors by Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Letters by Dave Lanphear
Cover by Marko Djurdjevic
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

At first, when Brother Voodoo was announced as the new Sorcerer Supreme, I was taken aback a little. I was really pulling for Wiccan to assume the mantle, or hey, even Dr. Doom (just because he is Marvel's greatest super villain). Though, flipping through the pages at my local comic store, purchasing it and actually reading it when I got home...yeah, Marvel chose wisely. I wasn't too familiar with the character, so my impression was open-minded when it came to how Rick Remender worked the Jericho Drumm character and I have to say, he's a bona fide bad ass.

This issue picks up after Jericho Drumm's cameo in New Avengers #53 earlier this year, where the legendary Eye of Agamotto chose him for the role of new Sorcerer Supreme. I love how Remender got down to some serious supernatural business from the get-go with the Doc confining old school Dr. Strange arch-nemesis, Dormammu, and we can see the different types of magicks that Voodoo relies on in comparison to Strange's. It's truly eeriely colored and drawn. One can really sense the feel of the type of power he now possesses. Of course you have Strange in an Obi-Wan-like role, but you can almost hear the doubt in his voice over Agamotto's choosing. Strange understands though that the Eye chose Jericho for a reason and he has to live with that.

Of course, Strange isn't the only one questioning the Eye's choice in new Sorcerer Supreme. Enter: Dr. Doom. The two have a mystical throwdown of serious proportions with Doom dominating until the very end. When he thinks the Eye is now his for the taking, Doom gets a rude awakening by showing him something that makes him do a hasty retreat. I love Remender's vernacular for Voodoo and his use of Vadou terminology. It provides a sense of faithful representation of the character and his world.

Jefte Palo's art is something else, too. I love Dr. Voodoo's new costume and how he interrupts the outlandish scenarios and creatures. It is almost as if he was meant for a book like this. Doctor Voodoo works great as a premiere issue for various reasons, but there are plenty of unanswered questions and I'll be sure to be around to find out.

Vengeance of the Moon Knight #2
Written by Gregg Hurwitz
Art by Jerome Opena
Colors by Paul Mounts
Cover by Leinil Yu with Jason Keith
Letters by VC's Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

"As Moon Knight, Spector prowls the night, meting out brutal justice to those who would prey on the innocent." Really? If that was the case, how come in the last issue, it was mainly in broad daylight and in this issue, again, it's mostly taken place during day time hours?

With that out of the way, I do want to express how much this series is off to a great start. Coming off the conclusion of the last issue, Sentry confronts Moon Knight and basically tells him can empathize what it is like to have inner demons and dealing with borderline insanity. The dialouge is well-paced and great introduction to the issue with Sentry flying all around, averting numerous disasters, all the while explaining to Moon Knight that if he goes back to his psychotic ways, he'll put him down.

Later, Norman Osborn is disappointed in the Hood and wants Moon Knight by any means. So, naturally, Hood brings in some additional help by means of the Profile. At first, I have to admit, the way the coloring works I thought it was the Purple Man. I always liked reading what the Profile was thinking, even if it was only for comedic value. Hiring the Profile, we also see that Osborn and the Hood will do whatever it takes to bring Moon Knight down, however, there is doubt they actually can. He's composed and seemingly at peace with the role of playing the hero again...though of course there's the end of the issue where, I'm pretty sure, the next issue will be insane and Spector's first real test on holding his madness at bay.

Hurwitz also does a fantastic job at reintroducing Moon Knight's supporting cast and does it in a way that makes you feel he's been doing it for ages, though for some of you new fans, it may seem a little confusing, but a quick browse through MK's history would remedy that. He handles Marlene, Frenchie, and Crawley with ease. Each of them have their own level of tension with Marc (or Jake) and it's wonderful character development to watch unfold. Hurwitz's script is paired well with Jerome Opena's art, that once again shines beautifully. This dynamite pair bring their own vision of action and character to the book and is easily one of the titles to watch out for. I know it may seem strange to some to say that with only two issues in, but rest assure, if you're not picking this up or having this in your pull box, you might want to rethink that.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Help a sista' out

Vote for Me
Good Mood Gig from SAM-e

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Please and thank you.

Monday, October 5, 2009

137th blog post spectacular!

If you don't get the Simpsons reference, c'mon!

So, after having a crumby week, I didn't turn anything to Best Shots, but I did end up getting something for Smallville, thanks to my Obi-Joe Kenobi

Re-Cap for Metallo: here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Batman! Hawkman! Ghetto...Man?

“Legends of the Superheroes” was a (Thank God) short-lived variety show that showcased various members of the DC universe. Of course you had Batman, Robin, Captain Marvel, Green Lantern, Black Canary and even Hawkman, but in one episode (only two were made), Ed McMahon introduced the JLA to a lesser-known superhero: Ghetto Man, played by Brad Sanders.

Now, I understand this was made for kids, but that was just painfully bad for the most part. Though I did actually like the Sammy Davis, jr. jokes.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Triple Feature Review: Detective Comics, Billy Batson and Spider-Woman

Detective Comics #857
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by J. H. Williams III and Cully Hamner
Colors by Dave Stewart and Dave McCaig
Published by DC Comics

Well the people over at 'Tec have done it again. While this arc ("Elegy") for the Batwoman ends, it raises several questions in the process, and the Question's arc continues on. This issue really defines Kate and gives her more definition rather than just a female Batman. Rucka has spun a great story here and how it ends is something I didn't see coming, though really should have since the cover is a huge hint and elbow nudge.

So basically, Alice alerts Kate that she has abducted her father and plans on releasing poisonous chemicals over Gotham. Now while the bat-eared hero versus the white-skinned villain distibuting chemicals over a major metropolitan city sounds should. However, Williams and colorist Dave Stewart turn something we've seen a myriad of times, into pages that are out of left field and very inventive. One of the main fight scenes between Batwoman and her albino adversary, resembles that of a tarot card, but it is not as confusing at all. I always find myself taking longer to read this title because I just linger at the pages making sure I catch everything, and it sometimes is a lot to take in.

Now, on to the second feature of this issue: the Question still on the trail for the slave traffickers. Now I know that Cully Hamner is not J. H. Williams, and the best part is, he's not trying to be. I have to admit though, Hamner has really stepped up his game with this issue. With only eight pages of story there's only so much one can do, but Hamner, aided by new colorist for this feature, Dave McCaig (Adam Strange, Superman: Birthright) really delivers.

This issue of Detective Comics continues the tradition of solid story-telling and creative art styles that well and translates into something wonderful and difficult to put down.

Spider-Woman #1
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Alex Maleev
Letters by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics

This book has been in the works for sometime now and it's finally here: Spider-Woman #1. The thing is though, the issue isn't really that action-oriented or heavy on the espionage. It reads more like a character study for Jessica Drew with the Bendis standard of way too many inner dialouge caption boxes which I got burnt out on rather quickly. There's some points in the book that you don't even need to read them, because Alex Maleev's artwork captures the turmoil Jessica is feeling with his wild colors and figure composition. I mean, she compares herself to Wolverine on their levels of being screwed up and you can see the anger and frustration in the panels. It's something to behold.

So what we have in this issue, is Jessica Drew being offered a position for SWORD by Abigail Brand for hunting down the remaining Skrull from "Secret Invasion", basically giving Jessica a chance at revenge. I really love Bendis' set up here, and I have to admit, I'm intrigued by the concept and curious about the next issue. My main complaint doesn't come from Bendis or Maleev (who is the selling point, in my opinion), but to Marvel itself. An extra dollar for only six extra pages? We really couldn't get a solid eight like they've been putting in Detective Comics or Streets of Gotham? Really?

I wasn't blown away by anything here, mainly because it was set up and flashbacks, but I'm not going to hold that against Bendis since I know this team up that produced some of my favorite Daredevil stories will deliver eventually. I just wish it wasn't so wordy. 

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam #8
Since the team of Art Baltazar and Franco from Tiny Titans took over the book, I find myself making sure it's in my pull box each month. In this installment, Dr. Sivana is running rampant with his own iron giant that is feeding off the life force of Tawky Tawny and Captain Marvel indirectly frees King Kull. After some creative use of the Shazam lightning power and something we learned in Third Grade about creating a magnet, Cap and Mary Marvel take down the foes and free Tawny. Now if you've been missing out of what's been going on, there is a sort of "Previously on Billy Batson" introduction, so it makes it easy to pick up because you've heard the great things about this book, but can't seem to find earlier issues. Byron Vaughns' art style works well for this kid's title, but it's almost too simple that it makes me miss Mike Kunkel's more animated style. Despite that, the book is in great hands and wonderful for any young reader.