Friday, March 27, 2009

Magic comes to Smallville. Recap of 8.17 - "Hex

Smallville 8.17 - "Hex"

"You need to work on your slight of hand." -- Zatanna (Serinda Swan)

The episode "Hex" starts in the midst of Chloe's birthday party. What should be a joyous event is the first thing that starts a chain of most unusual events. Oliver Queen is there (absent from the past few episodes) and he gives her two presents: one from himself; and the other from Clark, since he is not there, which of course disappoints her. Chloe talks to Oliver about some of the things she regrets in life and how she wish she could be back in the bullpen like Clark and Lois, and wishes she could just be that happy again (having just been dumped by Jimmy Olsen in Turbulence"). Lois comes by to wish her cousin a happy birthday, but has to leave because she has an important assignment in Mexico. Soon enough, Oliver has to leave because "duty calls." As he tries to exit he meets a leggy magician working the party, Zatanna, but passes her on to Chloe since it's her birthday. Zatanna can tell Chloe is having a rough time, so she tells her to make a wish.

There are some chimes heard and a magical bright light, and we cut to Chloe's room and somebody sliding on a pair of bunny slippers. However, we soon realize it is not Chloe exactly, but Chloe in Lois' body. She has to get dressed to show up for work at the Daily Planet. Chloe soon realizes that Lois is treated with much admiration and respect, being praised on her articles and even has an intern getting her dry-cleaning. Chloe sits down and looks up Zatanna on the internet because she has a hunch that the sorceress may be involved. Suddenly Clark stops by and wonders why she isn't in Mexico, Chloe changes the subject and grills Clark on why he didn't call Chloe on her birthday, yet had enough time to call Lois five times. Busted. Clark says Chloe understands that he just gets backed up with work and such, then they talk about the Jimmy situation and Chloe not taking Jimmy's side. I can only imagine that must have been hard for Chloe to hear.

We cut to Oliver walking in his office only to find Zatanna looking for him. She is trying to find a book of her father's, the "Maestro of Magic," John Zatara, that Lex Luthor bought at an auction. However, because Queen Industries bought up most of Luthor's holdings, he really can't do anything. Zatanna then sweetens the deal. She strikes a bargain with Oliver that if he can deliver the book by midnight to her, she'll grant him one wish. And with that, she vanishes.

Back to Chloe (still in Lois' body), and Clark following a report about a guy screaming in Latin with a microphone and he notices something. He can't quite put his finger on it, but he knows something's amiss. When Chloe stops to talk to a cop, he begins talking about a poker game and hands "Lois" a wad of cash. Apparently, Lois has some late-night extracurricular activities. The crazy fellow is on a balcony and screaming, throwing things, and creating quite a scene, only in Latin. Chloe translates the message and it leads back to Zatanna. Clark is really curious now, and Chloe comes clean about her transmutation as they both go and try to find Zatanna.

The duo break into Zatanna's dressing room to confront her about her hexing and "cursing" Chloe. Though, that's not how Zatanna sees it at all. She granted Chloe a wish, and in that moment there was nothing she wanted more than to be Lois. Zatanna also tells Chloe she will revert back to her true form once she truly doesn't want to be Lois anymore, but cannot simply tell herself that. Zatanna then moves on to Clark and tells him that she can grant his wish as well, then vanishes, yet there's something not right with Clark. Shortly after, Chloe and Clark witness a mugging outside and when she tells Clark to do something he does: he calls 911! He has no recollection of his powers or the fact that Chloe is inside of Lois' body. Chloe tries in vain to explain to Clark why and how he's more than important. She gets him to test his strength and super hearing, but he still doesn't believe her.

The next morning, Chloe wakes up as herself and is surprised as Clark comes over to make peace for not coming to. Later at a LuthorCorp warehouse, Oliver, now in his Green Arrow garb, is sneaking around and trying to find Zatanna's book. After taking out two security guards, he finds it and goes looking for Zatanna, but she finds him first. Zatanna tells Oliver to can drop the misdirection and he unmasks himself. Oliver explains that he noticed some dark material in the book and he tries to burn it, but Zatanna magically wisps the book to her. She summons chains with an incantation ("Leets yb dnuob!") and binds Oliver in chains. She explains to Green Arrow that the book is the key to her bringing back her father, Zatara, with the hope of becoming more powerful. With that, she leaves with the book and Oliver hopelessly shackled.

Elsewhere, we cut to Chloe and Clark at the hospital as they visit the man who was spouting Latin. Turns out he runs an antique shop and Zatanna came by his store looking for her book. He didn't have it and she made sure he had a "good understanding of dead languages." The man says she is too blinded by grief to understand completely what she's doing by having that book in her possession. Chloe and Clark leave the hospital and see that there is something eerie going on top of the Daily Planet. It's Zatanna summoning some pretty heavy power. Chloe tells Clark that he is so important, not just to her, but to the world and he should use the power he feels to stop Zatanna. Sure enough, Clark is back to his old self, as does Chloe who is back in her own body. Clark leaps the tall building in a single bound and tries to stop Zatanna from completing the spell. Clark tells her it could kill her, but she doesn't care. Just then, Chloe is struck by the magic meant for Zatanna, and now her life is in danger. It's down to Chloe's life or Zatara's, and Zatanna must choose. Clark tries reasoning with her, sharing with her the loss of their respective fathers, and Zatanna frees Chloe, but Zatara's shadow is lost.

The next morning, Chloe wakes up as herself and is surprised by Clark coming over with bagels to make peace for not showing up to her birthday. Clark and Chloe accept who they are, but then the conversation evolves to Lois. Chloe thinks that he should open up to her and not think of his past with Lana and try to disassociate the two. Clark turns that on her and asks the same thing about being scorned, wondering aloud if Chloe is talking about him. . . or Jimmy?

Meanwhile, Oliver finds Zatanna in his office and is not happy, obviously. He understands the sacrifice she has made and can respect that. Zatanna informs him that she will be taking some time off of her tour to go home to Shadowcrest and to do some "light reading." She hands him a card, and Oliver thinks it's some sort of enchanted tarot that can magically summon her. She replies, "No, it's my phone number," and with a wink and a smile she vanishes again.

Later that night, Clark and the real Lois are at their Daily Planet desks working late, and I'm assuming she was filled in on what transpired since she jokes about how there is only one real Lois Lane. She also ribs Clark about how he framed a list Lois had made, "The Lois Lane Rules of Journalism." There's a bit of awkwardness to the point of sexual tension.

Finally, we go back to Chloe and Oliver at the Isis Foundation, and she talks about her ultimate purpose and what she was meant to do. She hands him an earpiece and walks into a secret room with numerous screens. On the screens are members of the Justice League: Impulse, Cyborg, Aquaman, Black Canary. The Watchtower is officially online.

I loved this episode on so many levels. I like how Erica Durance (all of the sudden this season, proving to be invaluable) played someone else's character. As a Zatanna fan, I have been waiting for this episode for quite sometime. Serinda Swan did an excellent portrayal of the Justice League's go-to mage, and looked amazing in the process. I appreciated the mention of Shadowcrest and how it touched on Zatanna's origin. Even her little violin theme when she was around was a nice touch. And let's not even mention the show's ending; I doubt many of us saw that one coming!

So where will this episode lead us? Will Zatanna be a recurring character? What will come of Chloe's new purpose? Is Clark ever going to get around to sealing the deal with Lois? Who knows-- I just know you'll be able to find me tuned in each Thursday.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Incredibles: Family Matters #1

The Incredibles: Family Matters #1
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Marcio Takara
Colors by Andrew Dalhouse; Letters by Jose Macasocal, Jr.
Covers by Michael Avon Oeming and Nick Filardi
Published by Boom! Kids

Modern master scribe Mark Waid takes the reigns of Disney and Pixar's hit The Incredibles and flawlessly translates it to the comic book page. The family's all here: Mr. & Mrs. Incredible, Violet, Dash, and even little Jack Jack (whose powers we still aren't quite sure of). Fans of the film and characters (and honestly, who isn't?) will hopefully enjoy his book as much as I did. The book doesn't give a time frame on how long ago the events in the movie took place from here, but the reader can assume it was probably either a few weeks to a few months since none of the characters show any sign of aging or slowing down. They make no mention of the adventure in the movie because the family is a superhero family: another day, another bad guy to beat. They seem well adjusted.

Debuting almost 5 years ago, the Parr family, a.k.a. the Incredibles, are still a household name. I can't even tell you how many times I've seen this movie, and yet I've discovered something new with every viewing. It was a layered cinematic achievement in animation that practically begged to be made into a comic book. Now I'm all for comics being in kids' hands -- and what kid would turn down a comic about a movie they love? This has been a long time coming, too. I remember when the movie came out, another comic company was planning on releasing the book, but then that feel through. All this time later, it was worth the wait.

Waid does not simply continue the story, but expands it. He opens their world a bit wider for the reader to explore. There are even nods to other Disney/Pixar characters (Dash and the new neighbor kid are seemingly playing "cowboy and space ranger"). Waid has worked on countless superhero teams before (JLA, the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Fantastic Four), yet he maintains these characters with their respective, unique voices and doesn't suddenly make Mr. Incredible sound like Superman or anything like that. The art is pretty stellar as well, never over-rendered or outrageous. The coloring is bright and simply striking.

Only the first issue of a 4-part miniseries, it ends with Mr. Incredible revealing to Frozone a secret that he has been keeping from his family. Waid has promised new characters and villains and, if Pixar would allow it, Waid wants to explore Mr. and Mrs. Incredible's past adventures, and that to me sounds like a worthy read. Rest assured, Incredi-fans, your favorite spandex-clad family is in good hands with The Incredibles: Family Matters.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Smallville 8.16, Turbulence

"With me, what you see is what you get." -- Clark Kent (Tom Welling)

It begins in a confession booth with Davis Bloom confessing his sins to a priest. Talk about how something takes over without warning. The priest tells him to control his inner demons. Davis tells the priest how he stops the wickedness that he sees and it makes him feel more human. Doomsday has never been portrayed like this and it's still interesting to have such a creature with a human side. Ever since his debut, I remember former Justice League member Bloodwynd trying to get a psychic breach into Doomsday's mind and all he could see was destruction and rage. Though I should know by now, Smallville is not the comics.

Cut to Clark and Chloe talking about how Clark maybe pushing himself too far as the badly-named "Red-Blue Blur". Clark insists he can manage it and in fact has practiced his quick changing. Clark also insists that Chloe go visit Jimmy at the hospital (who's been there for about 5 weeks now). I find it strange that Clark has visited Jimmy more times than Chloe, or at least that's how it appeared to me.

Meanwhile Jimmy is having a horrid nightmare about the wedding and the Doomsday creature and he's in a lot of pain. He stumbles onto finding Davis beating the holy hell out of people. It's a brief scene, but is one of the main themes of the episode: DECEPTION.

The next morning, at the Daily Planet, Clark is sort of spying on crimes using police technology, but his savior spree is cut short as Tess confronts and tells him they are leaving for Los Angles, supposedly to give him his big break with a breaking story.

Cut back to Jimmy who tells Chloe that Davis was the killer in the hospital, until Davis shows up and clarifies the situation. He explains that Jimmy's morphine pump must be malfunctioned and is giving him extra doses. Jimmy becomes enraged and doesn't believe hime and Davis leaves the room. Chloe follows Davis out and she apologizes for Jimmy's anger and possible neurosis. Davis assumes it was because Jimmy knew that he kissed Chloe, but she told him that was a secret. Chloe blames herself for what happened in a way by saying that this wouldn't have happened if she never met Jimmy. Problem is that Jimmy actually sees Davis and Chloe share an embrace that doesn't help him calm down.

Back to Tess's corporate jet, though it turns out it actually belongs to Oliver Queen. She's informed with Clark by the pilot that a storm's coming and may lead to a landing elsewhere. Tess explains to Clark about Lex Luthor lo-jacking her and they discuss their respective experience with Lex. Tess says Lex wanted to be like Clarkand that he was his obsession.

Shortly after, they show Jimmy at the hospital, and he's escaped and car-jacks into Davis' paramedic unit parked outside. He snoops around to find a body bag, and -- SURPRISE, SURPRISE -- there's a body in it. Jimmy is startled and breaks some glass and cuts himself just as Davis bursts in. Then, Davis comes clean about the killing a drunk driver, but when Jimmy tries to leave, Davis puts the breaks on him and puts him back in his room. Now this is where I'm confused, Jimmy sees Doomsday taking Chloe, but in reality he's not sure what he sees since he gets held down by hospital officials and Davis... and it's all witnessed by Chloe herself. Go figure.

35 minutes into this episode, Clark gotten little screentime, and Lois is gone again.

Back to Clark and Tess on the airplane and they're trying to enjoy their flight, though Clark is apparently trying to get Tess inebriated to confess about Lex's journal that he was told about about earlier. Tess confesses about her childhood and how it wasn't all Norman Rockwell. As a child she used to pretend she was the Little Mermaid, hiding underwater and being a princess, but then her father would find her and deliver severe beatings. She wants Clark to confess his deep, dark secrets but Clark continues to be coy... then there's some, umm, turbulence.

Clark can't find the pilot and finds there's a hole in the cockpit. Tess says there are no parachutes, but in fact there are two that Clark is aware of. So, clever little Clark makes Tess breathe into an oxygen mask, only to cut off her supply so she'll pass out. A risky move, to be sure, but he jumps them out to safety, since he can leap over a tall building in a single bound, you know.

Elsewhere, Davis is prowling the streets for injustice only to end up getting jumped by Jimmy. Jimmy tries to piss off Davis enough to transform into the creature Jimmy believes him to be. Out of nowhere, Chloe knocks out Jimmy and as Davis is about to transform, Chloe calms him down to hold back the demonic urge. "You've saved me," Davis says to Chloe.

Cut back to Luthor Mansion and Clark visits Tess to check up on her and she informs him that the pilot has yet to be found and that the crash is being investigated. Too bad she is sooooo on to Clark's ruse. She asks how he landed and he said there was one parachute, but Tess knows differently. She tells Clark she feels safe around him and that he can trust her. At thee very least, Clark has a notion Tess knows something.

Later on, Chloe goes to the hospital to pick up Jimmy, but he doesn't want her help. Chloe blames the drugs, but Jimmy states how Chloe doesn't trust him and he leaves on his own stating "Marrying you was the biggest mistake of my life."

Ouch. It ends with a montage of Jimmy selling out Davis to Tess, Tess paying off the pilot to "stay dead", Clark going on patrol, Jimmy taking a plethora of pills of his new pain-relieving prescription, and Chloe crying as the rain pours. Kind of a downer I must say, but I know the show needs some sort of love triangle. But this episode really didn't advance the connection between Davis and Chloe. It feels still feels wooden and forced, though I will have to state again, I'm liking Doomsday as this savage beast trapped into a man's soul.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

War of the Witchblade Begins Now.

Witchblade #125
From: Top Cow
Writer: Ron Marz
Art: Stjepan Sejic
Covers: Chris Bachalo, Stjepan Sejic

For more than a year now, the Witchblade has been split between two bearers, NYPD Detective Sara Pezzini and aspiring dancer/Police Captain's daughter Danielle Baptiste. They have coexisted peacefully, becoming almost like sisters, however Witchblade #125 is the beginning of the end. Starting with this issue, the six-part “War of the Witchblades” arc will change Sara, Dani and the Witchblade forever. Sara has been Dani’s friend and mentor, but now she becomes her bitter enemy. By the end of the storyline, only one bearer will remain.

Once again, I am floored with Sejic's art style. His attention to detail and overall presentation is just immaculate. Ron Marz's run on Witchblade continues to be one of my favorite run in comics and this upcoming arc looks to be one of the big events of the year. If you haven't been reading, this is a good place to start to see what you've been missing. There's even a sort of "Previously in Witchblade" note that catches you up on things. More comics today desperately need things like that.

Though I have to advise you, readers. There is not a whole lot of action and fighting scenes going on in this one, but the set up has been planted. There is a lot going on though: Sarah visits her sister in jail, Dani may have had an epiphany, and Patrick Gleason is trying to figure out his place in all of this. Oh, and of course the Angelus and the Curator are around to do their mystical business.

There is also a backup story written by Rob Levin and art by Marco Castellio which serves more of a quasi-backstory for Patrick's Character. Though it only leaves more questions and more mysteries to be solved. That's a good thing, trust me. Witchblade #125 hits stores on March 18th. lightning!

Black Lightining: Year One #6
Written by Jen Van Meter
Art by Cully Hamner
Colors by Laura Martin; lettering by Sal Cipriano
Published by DC Comics

In issue #6 of this six-issue miniseries, Jefferson Pierce, a.k.a. Black Lightning, squares off against Tobias Whale and the 100. Jen Van Meter's characterization may have polarized readers (I have some friends that really dig this series, and I have friends who dropped it after the third issue.) Nonetheless, she did what the series was intended for: to update Black Lightning's origin and to make it a solid read. I say "mission accomplished" to both of those intentions.

Black Lightning's narration throughout the issue really helped me believe in the character. I compared this series to a sort of "Walking Tall"-like story: the "costumed superhero out to save the streets" sort of angle. Some may see that as a bit cliche, but it works here. As usual, Cully Hamner's artwork flows effortlessly, and the panel layout is easy to grasp. Nothing too shocking (pun INTENDED) occurs here, since we know that BL is still around in the modern day.

I have heard recently that DC is going to stop production on the "Year One" style of stories, and to me that is a damn shame. With these sort of stories, the creatives can have some serious fun and, at the same time, put their stamp on a given character (like Black Lightning here). I can only think of one at the top of my head, Eddy Newell. Then again, I'm not a Black Lightning aficionado. Van Meter and Hamner have definitely told a great story and put their collective stamp on this character.

If you missed it the first time around, you should check it out in trade format coming this fall. I really enjoyed how Van Meter shed some light on this character. To me, I was inspired to check out some earlier BL material. This early into 2009, I'm considering Black Lightning: Year One for my favorite miniseries of the year.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Watchmen thoughts.

I was very impressed by this film. It managed to stay very faithful to the book while adding it's own spin to the material. First the good:

Jeffery Dean Morgan IS the Comedian. He seemed to step right off the page, every amoral inch of him. My favorite part of the comic (IT'S NOT A FUCKING GRAPHIC NOVEL! IT'S A SERIALIZED COMIC!) was always his funeral, and the flashbacks were done perfectly (though why no Capt. Metropolis at the first meeting of the Crimebusters, though they kept it simple and just called the team Watchmen?)

Same with Jackie Earle Haley. Not to downplay the rest, but these were juggernauts on screen. Every nuance of Rorschach was perfectly captured by Haley, and his gravelly voice matched the character to a tee, making him seem to come off the page even more faithfully than Blake (& was a far sight more believable than Christian Bale and his Nathan Explosion impersonation).

Though downplayed in all of the reviews I've read, I felt that Matthew Goode played Ozymandias superbly. A perfect mix of arrogance and genius, like Tony stark on brain steroids. The addition of the meeting with oil & coal magnates was an example of Snyder adding depth to the character, whom I always felt was very underused and almost seemed tacked on in the original text.

The relationship between Dan and Laurie played out very well, and surpassed my expectations beautifully (How awesome was Patrick Wilson as the socially awkward Drieberg?)
As was the case with the one in 300, the love scene was VERY well done. People are saying that it was awkward, I think, because in movies usually the couple is naked & kissing: not gyrating and enjoying it like those of us in the real world do.

But the biggest kudos go to the execs at Warner Brothers for even green-lighting this project. Think about it:

* a Superhero movie with no recognizable characters
* No big name stars
* full frontal male nudity
* an 'R' rating in a genre that typically is frequented by minors
* GRAPHIC violence, nudity, sex, all of which make this a VERY un-family friendly movie
* AND a run time that most studios would balk at

all of this, PLUS a huge effects heavy budget for what equates to an art house superhero flick, would tell most execs to kill a project, or at least fire the director. But Warner not only supported the movie, but advertised the FUCK out of it! TV ads, viral websites, multiple theatrical trailers! This was a huge gamble on the part of Warner & and they went ahead anyway. Though, it's understandable that the weekend box office didn't meet their standards.

And now a few gripes:
The sound editor should be shot. I felt like I was watching a music video half the time, the music was so loud.

Speaking of Music, some of the song choices were a little weird to me. 'Sound of Silence' seemed like an odd choice for the funeral (I'd have preferred there was no music at ALL at that point), and 'Hallelujah', while a good song, seemed very out of place for the love scene. Maybe if those songs switched places?

Silhouette's murder being a hate crime. I know it's knit picky but in the comic she's kicked out in disgrace and murdered by an old foe wanting revenge (and speaking of gay, where was Capt. Metropolis & Hooded Justice sharing some thickly veiled gay time?).

The lack of Sally changing her name to Jupiter to hide the fact that she's Polish AND Laurie not going by Juspeczyk. I know it's a minor detail but they could have slipped it in with one sentence.

The revelation that Eddie Blake is Laurie's father was very watered down, & her hatred and animosity towards him was not properly portrayed. Again, a simple sentence, taken right from the book when Rorshach visits Dr. M and Laurie, would have helped that. I'm sure that certain scenes were cut for time that will flesh it out better (here's hoping on the DVD), but as is it's a little lacking.

And, despite the fact that the movie is 2hrs and 40mins long, it still seemed fairly rushed. Not nearly enough time was spent with Malcolm analyzing Rorschach (crossing my fingers again for the DVD), and Dr. Manhattan's history was lacking a bit. They never explained why he burned a Hydrogen symbol into his head. Or the reason why he would wear clothes and then not. The way I've always looked at it, Manhattan wears less and less clothes through out the book as he slowly loses his humanity, where basically a thing like shame (as Adam and Eve learned from the tree of knowledge) doesn't exist to him. so him being naked is as like how God created the first humans.


Overall the pros vastly outweigh the cons, most of which are superficial to begin with. By far the most complex, thought provoking comic book movie we've seen thus far, eclipsing even the Dark Knight in terms of sheer brilliance. Bravo to all involved. I think I may need to do a second viewing at some point. Plus, they hinted a lot that Adrian is gay. Hrm.

p.s.- I liked the altered ending, and Hollis getting murdered is going to be on the DVD, as per Snyder.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Amber Atoms #1

Amber Atoms #1
Story and art by Kelly Yates
Colors by Michael E. Wiggam
Published by Image Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

In the style of Flash Gordon and Ender's Game comes AMBER ATOMS. A sci-fi/adventure comic with a rich layout and wonderfully drawn characters and landscapes. The story begins with a sort of prolouge: the Dar-Tongo (ape-like creatures) reign is over and peace in the galaxy can start again. Flash forward to several generations later. The ruler of the Dar-Tongo, King Yamoon, even goes on a talk show and discusses how there is no animosity towards the "Great Rebellion" and assures the general population his race has grown and matured. Meanwhile, our heroine Amber Atoms is going after an assassin droid that got loose, but then her father shows up and finishes the job since he thought his daughter couldn't cut it.

Meanwhile on Richaati, Heart of the United Worlds, King Yamoon is handed some interesting news. His approval rating has just come in and he has placed third in the polls with all indications of further upward movement. The king's response: "Yes, excellent. Everything is going according to plan." Crafty little creatures. Back at the Atoms' dinner table, there is some heated words between father and daughter. Then, Amber is sent out to power off her workshop, but when she comes back home, she sees her mother on the ground and her father being man-handled by a blue-skinned warrior. Amber is spotted and one of the intruders open fires, but Amber escapes. However, Amber is shot from behind by a giant ant creature before she could make it to her weapons shed. Talk about a cliffhanger!

I really enjoyed this issue. Kelly Yates has a great style. Not just in his art, but the way how he presents it. The pages are never cluttered and incredibly structured. Now, there are a few spelling errors: poles, should be polls, for example. Nothing too outrageous that it didn't take me out of the story, and I'll just chalk it up as a rookie's mistake. Yates is doing a one-man show here and I can't give enough kudos for creators like that since he did the story, art and cover. He is accompanied by Michael E. Wiggam on colors, who did coloring on some Star Wars books and he just knocks it out of the ballpark. The best part, I thought anyways, was how Yates never went into how Amber is a girl. She's just Amber. She's a kick-ass character, though she may not exactly be the best at what she does. I also enjoyed the kid-friendly vibe from it. Easy to read and easy to understand, this would be a great book for a young comic-reader in the family. With the economy the way it is, it's a shame there isn't new material like this since books like this aren't really selling well. Image took a chance with this one, and I'm glad I took a chance on picking it up.