Showing posts with label Marvel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marvel. Show all posts

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Iron Man 2!


I think you guys might want to check out the trailer for the upcoming Iron Man sequel.

HERE (its at Apple. Must have Quicktime. So, Jason, get someone to help you out.).

Thanks to Simon for the link!

Friday, October 30, 2009

So... Marvel's on the iPhone

A couple of days ago I said something about comics on the iTablet (and thanks to TJeff for following up. I was traveling and failed to respond). Well, it seems that the next day, it was learned that Marvel has made its comics available via iPhone.

Read up here.

What's odd is that they have multiple distributors, each offering up something slightly different. I have to assume that Marvel is letting folks duke things out to see who will get this beyond the trial period, but I also am surprised that with the Disney merger happening (I guess), that Disney doesn't have a room full of software engineers who can handle things like building apps.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Planet Hulk to DVD

It seems Marvel has upped the ante a bit in their animation efforts.

I tried their first few movies and... not good.

Now they are bringing the last story I remember reading and really enjoying from Marvel to the small screen.

No, I do not remember how Hulk becomes articulate. Hopefully the movie will remind me.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Yes, I Know

As always, Nathan C was first to alert me to the news, followed within five minutes by Randy, and Dan G. walking into my office.

Yes, I am now aware that Disney bought Marvel Entertainment.

More to come.

As I told Randy: We can now have that Quasar/ Clarabelle Cow crossover so many of us fans have long believed should occur!

But I confess that the idea of Mickey in a web-slinger outfit strikes me as a particularly great idea... And Wolver-Duck. Berserker rage, indeed.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Coal to Diamond, Marvel does good, Jake Lloyd, Facebook

Can Superman Make Diamonds from Coal?

Thanks to JimD who sent this along:

Legendary question-answer man, Cecil, takes on the old Superman trick of using Super-strength to squeeze coal with so much pressure, it becomes a diamond.

The Straight Dope

While its understandable why one would want to find ways to make diamonds to impress Annette O'Toole (the trick was employed in the Pryor-rich Superman III), this was also done in the comics in the Silver Age. But Superman also used to fly so fast he would travel through time, and regularly destroy landmarks (and super-rebuild them) just to mess with Lois's head. So, you know...

Marvel Does Some Geek Good

Well, this is blowing my mind. In the 1980's, there was a comic on the stands called, alternately, "Marvelman" and "Miracle Man". The character may have the most complicated publishing history in comics, and I highly recommend you read the Wikipedia entry, as its quite fascinating. A knock-off of Captain Marvel for England (as Captain marvel had been a knock-off of Superman from a Mid-Western publisher), the character became caught up in some pretty serious legal disputes in the late 1990's or so, and has been in limbo ever since. This has meant no reprints, and odd stabs from different creators who've claimed they owned bits and pieces of Marvelman to put out product.

Creators with names like Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore have not just made their mark, but had ownership privileges, and its all led to Marvelman gaining a reputation as the best comic many comic readers haven't just never read, but which was impossible to obtain. To actually buy the back issues to read the series is prohibitively expensive.

Or was.

Apparently, Marvel just decided to cut checks to all involved and has purchased the rights to Marvelman.


This most likely means reprints and new material and a bunch of comic nerds in their early 30's and 20's who are now waiting for announcements about the reprints.

Well done, Marvel! I've only been waiting since about 1995 to read these stories.

Here's Jake Lloyd, the guy who played Anakin Skywalker in "The Phantom Menace"

He turned into a bitter nerd kid. Awesome.


By the way, if you aren't a fan yet on Facebook, I'm actually using the thing. There's a bit of what I'd call Bonus Content. Plus, you get comments, etc... from folks who are coming in by way of Facebook.

Anyhow, use that box over there on the left and join up! Facebook is free and mostly not-scary.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Donald Duck, Captain America and Superman gets Syndicated

Captain America

There's been a load of speculation about the 600th issue of Captain America that was released today (two days earlier than the normal comics' delivery day each week). Looks like that speculation can come to an end.

A couple of years back, Cap was shot on the steps of a court house in NYC, and keeled over dead. Since that time, former protege Bucky Barnes, his WWII-era sidekick turned lethal assassin, had put on the cowel, picked up the shield and done his best to fill Cap's boots. What should have been some serious comic-book hackery has, instead, been some of the best storytelling in the Marvel U that I'm aware of (in my humble opinion). Its just been great comics.

Marvel has been happy to try to play up any minor event in their comics in the major news outlets, and did so again today to coincide with the release of today's comic.

I can say no more, but there's a major spoiler after the jump.

Superman Back in the Newspaper Biz

Simon reminded me, so its in the post tonight!, that the upcoming Wednesday Comics from DC is not going to just be appearing in comic shops. DC is taking the format, which I've actually criticized as a throwback, and moving forward to the future for comics. The weekly comic is in an old (very, very old) format of the newspaper broadsheet, with something like a page or two of the story being released each week. Sort of like the old Little Nemo comics or a Flash Gordon comic.

And, yeah, its only a 12-week thing, but I think that's just their test period for both print and online. Oh, and here's some preview art for Wednesday Comics.

BUT... DC is going back to the future. They're also syndicating to USA Today online. What this means is that DC is finally, finally getting online.


I think this is a cool opportunity for DC to dip their toe in the internet waters with their major characters. Sure, I think they should be moving their entire library online, but... babysteps. AND, you guys will, I assume, be able to read at least the Superman comics, and maybe a whole lot more!

Anyhoo, here's the story from USA Today. And here's the DCU Blog article.

Here's some Superman art. Pretty nice!

click for a bigger image. See Supes and Bats in all their glory!

Donald Duck

Apparently last week was Donald Duck's 75th birthday.

Like most kids born after 1935 or so, Donald Duck was an ever present force in my formative years. The pantsless sailor duck was a welcome face on our TV screen and during the occasional 16mm film at school.

Happy 75th, Buddy!

I don't want to take anything away from Donald, but I do remember being maybe a little freaked out by his rage attacks as a kid, and was probably 5 or 6 or so before I found them funny and realized they were intended to be wacky and not vaguely threatening. I think I thought of Donald as an adult, and when adults flipped out when I was very little, I sort of flipped out a little on my own.

needs therapy

It was the Chip'n'Dale/ Donald stuff that I think won me over.

And here's a favorite:

Dude! There's a ton of Disney stuff on YouTube!

Anyway, who doesn't love Donald Duck? I sure do. And just to make matters better, the Duck comics from Disney are something I read from time to time as an adult, so Donald is still with me today, in a slightly less animated form.* Like many, having grown up with Disney characters as such a big part of our entertainment, I may not have a sense of ownership of the characters, but Disney's attempts to make me think of Donald, Mickey and much of the rest of Disney characters as pals has completely worked. When we went to Disneyworld in 2000, I got weirdly excited about having my photo taken with characters, and had a repeat in 2002 or 03 when I attended a conference at Disneyland.

Happy Birthday, Donald! Perhaps this 3/4's of a century, someone at Disney will buy you some pants, pal.

*I think Boom! just landed the Disney contract, so expect more Disney comics soon, if true. At a reasonable price, too!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Wolverine Goes to College

The University of North Texas website today. That's Wolverine and, I think, Penance (formerly "Speedball" of the New Warriors).

I seriously thought I had clicked on the wrong link for a full five seconds and newsarama or someone had changed their look...

Monday, May 04, 2009

Best Comic Superhero Movies of All Time

So in the comments on my post about Wolverine, Jason challenged me to name the best and worst superhero movies of all time. I think, wisely, Jason suggested I stick to
superhero movies that were actually adapted from comics or graphic novels.

Like any genre or sub-genre of film, there's a few shining stars, there's several in the mid-range, and then some movies that are epic in their failure to execute and/ or entertain. Those films often gain legendary status among geeks, as (in)famous as their more successful counterparts. But, of course, they enjoy the word-of-mouth "you haven't seen it? Oh. My. God." status.

The problem with superhero movies (much like sci-fi) is that there seem to be a far greater number of movies that hit the ultra-bad status rather than the very good.

So what did I pick?

How about this? Here's my top five in no particular order.

1) Superman: The Movie
Sure, its Metropolis scenes are hopelessly mired in the ill-conceived fashions of the 1970's, and the whole "Can you read my mind?" sequence is a test of anyone's patience/ sanity... But it also tells a deeply complete story on a scale that's still difficult to match. I still find the characters and motivations of everyone but Otis (read: RHPT) to be truly thought out from a writer's perspective. Cliche they may be these days, but lest we forget: Superman originated a lot of those cliches, so credit where credit is due.

Its hard to believe Reeve is in his early 20's (about the same age as Routh, who was often criticized as "too young") as he managed to define the character of Superman for a generation. Throw in Kidder's "tough city reporter", the essence of Lois Lane, and Hackman as a daffier-than-expected Lex, and it adds up to the capstone on a great cast.

Its also got one of the most memorable scores in all of filmdom, fantastic cinematography, amazing practical effects and manages to tell an amazing, epic story. Something almost no other superhero movie has managed to pull off.

And I know you think Superman II is better, but its far campier and goofier than what you remember. I assure you.

2) Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2
Spidey swung in on a web and saved the superhero movie for the 21st Century. When we'd come to expect dreck (more on that later), Sam Raimi's love of the wall-crawler in both the first and second installments hit pitch perfect with the audience and recreated the superhero film by actually paying attention to the original source material instead of dismissing it as kiddie-garbage.

Raimi, unlike Burton and his Batman, "got" Spidey in all the ways that mattered, and understood what had made the original source material work. Rather than slavishly try to hit all the beats, he distilled down why we love made the damn best two hours of a Spidey movie anyone could ask for.

Sadly, Spidey 3 was a terrific mess and a disappointment.

But Spidey 1, especially, is a hell of a lot of fun. Who didn't want to web-swing after that movie?

3) The Dark Knight
I grew up as a huge fan of the Burton films, but they never felt exactly like the comics I was reading when I'd head home from the store with Detective or Batman comics in my hand. The Dark Knight built on the based-in-comics foundation of the Goyer-assisted Batman Begins (which was great, but could have used more Year One), and sets Batman firmly in a world much more like our own. And then drags the audience along, like someone tied to a galloping horse for about two hours.

In many ways, the Batman comics WISH they were as we well put together as Dark Knight, and I don't think any writer since Morrion did "Arkham Asylum" or Moore and Bolland finished The Killing Joke has managed to make the Joker so completely frightening or menacing in a way that seems all too possible.

Sure, I've failed to do a Maggie Gyllenhaal "DITMTLOD" post, but the replacement of Katie Holmes as Dawes is not what makes me love the movie. Its just a rock-solid film from start to finish with clearly defined characters struggling in a world where morality is punished.

Also, the score is nothing to listen to for relaxation, but its a huge part of the environment of the movie.

4) Iron Man
It's a recent entry, and so I'm reluctant to place it so high in the rankings, but Iron Man is a great story of circumstance creating a hero from the complacent.

Its tough to imagine anyone but Downey in the role these days (Tom Cruise actually had the role locked up for a few years until the rights expired).

Had Iron Man not been overshadowed by Dark Knight's insistence on refining the genre, it would be the movie we'd all still be talking about (I am. I have it on Blu-Ray. Thanks, Jason!).

The movie was probably mostly there in the script, but its not too difficult to imagine how it could have gone wrong. Humorless. Forcing in the alcoholism angle of the 1980's too early. Too many one-liners. Someone deciding it was a kids movie, and could we lighten up the middle-eastern portion... So many ways it could have been nothing but, literally an empty suit of a movie. But Favreau and Downey found some perfect pitch to hit. Sure, its spirals into the same mad scientist/ my evil twin-ness of several other superhero movies, but its a great ride getting there.

Plus, I liked Gwyneth Paltrow again. Who knew?

If Dark Knight made me want to lay down for a while afterward, Iron Man made me want to stand up and cheer.

5) Justice League Unlimited
is not a movie. But it's available on Netflix, and is the best representation of the JLA I've seen. And that includes Morrison's JLA, to which I have a slavish devotion (Rock of Ages? Best. JLA. Story. Ever.).

It doesn't hurt to watch the preceding two seaons or so of the series "Justice League", or all the various seasons of Batman or Superman (also available via Netflix). But JLU's two seasons were a high point in American televised animation.

Brilliantly voice-acted, well-animated, and with a team of peopel scripting the thing at a level not seen on most prime-time shows (aside from, maybe, Lost or something...), JLU encapsulated everything there is to love about the DCU. Big stories with small, personal moments. A wide cast of characters fighting for the common good, questions of power and responsibility... all that stuff. Plus a wild array of villains and villainous plots, grounded by well defined characters on both sides of the good/ evil dichotomy.

Plus, Amanda Waller.

Its a great run on a great series. Never embarasrsed about being a show about superheroes, and never feeling that because its a show about folks in capes that it should be anything less than the best show they could make it.

If not for the greed of Cartoon Network officials (unhappy the toy money was going to DC and not to them), we would have had another few seasons. But I'll take what i can get.

And if you don't find anything cinematic in the season endings to either season, the Amazo episodes of JLU, the Dark Heart episode, etc... well, more's the pity. I love that they can do this on the comic page, and I love it that Timm, McDuffie and Co. brought me such imaginative work over so many episodes.

But I also don't mind their straight-to-DVD features. All of which have been worth picking up, in my opinion.

Honorable Mentions:

Obviously X-Men and X2 are great movies. Simply terrific at condensing down the expansive X-Universe. But the first film's ending is kind of goofy, and I'm not sure the second film's ending pays off the set-up of the film on the scale I would have preferred.

I actually like both of the recent Hulk movies for different reasons, and would gladly pay to see a sequel to the Edward Norton-starring Hulk. I really don't know what else you're going to do with the Hulk, so it worked for me.

Superman II and Superman Returns certainly get an honorable mention.

Hellboy 1 (but, sadly, not Hellboy 2).

I still like the short-lived Flash TV series, Seasons 1-3 of Smallville, and Wonder Woman.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

X-Men Origins Colon Wolverine Colon Isn't Very Colon Good

Surprise, right?

Long, long ago, I got into superhero comics in no small part because of Claremont's "Uncanny X-Men", a team book which was, as is now well known, all about mutants and the prejudice they faced on the streets of New York. The first issue I recall reading was issue 210. It would be a year or so later before I would discover back-issues and be able to find out what led up to that issue, but the clear social message, which reflected very much what I was taught at home, in theory at school, at church, etc... matched up pretty darn well with the "Mutants are People, Too!" message of the issue.

No fights in the comic, but the X-Men regrouping after a big fight (almost unheard of for such continuity in comics today), and Kitty Pryde and Colossus having a run in with some anti-mutant bigots, while Rogue's heroism won over some tough guy New York construction guys.

Wolverine stabbed nobody.

At that time, Wolverine had been through quite a bit. His past was shrouded in mystery to both he, the X-Men and the reader. He had already had some adventures in Japan, and so by the time I reached the character, he had studied to become a samurai (not a ninja), and had a fallen-out romance with a woman of Japanese nobility.

Still, he was a gruff, stocky, hairy guy prone to drinking cases of beer, smoking cigars, and using what passed for profanity under the Comics Code Authority (he said "blazes" a lot, in place of "hell" or "damn"). He came across as Kitty Pryde's tough uncle, who was all bluster. For goodness sake, he occasionally hung out with Power Pack.

Wolverine had had a successful 4-issue mini-series in 1982, but never starred in his own title. He was a utility player that I think, wisely, Marvel knew was popular, but feared over exposure and the audience's realization that the character might not be much more than the word "Bub" and a set of claws.

At some point, the letters coming in and successful solo stories in Marvel Presents convinced Marvel that they should try a Wolverine solo-series. I wasn't convinced Wolverine needed a solo series. I preferred him as a member of the X-Men, but I think I started trying to pick up the series to go along with X-Men around issue 3 or 4 when I realized that Wolverine in his own series might just be the way of the world. Part of this (and this will stun younger readers) was that back then, if a character had a solo mini-series, they would actually demonstrate this in continuity by removing the character from their usual book for the duration. That's how seriously fans and the editors took continuity and would try not to put the same hero in two places at once. Ie: a successful Wolverine series should mean that Wolverine might not be in the X-Men anymore.

I didn't care for the series.

I don't know who was writing, but I'll guess it was Claremont. There was a lot of business about some stand-in island for Singapore called Madripoor, and a ridiculous secret ID for Wolverine in which he wore an eye-patch (like a pirate) and called himself "Patch".

Some character can take glomming on to certain parts of their past, and others... not so much. The Madripoor stuff opened the gate to pretty much any cockamamie notion anyone wanted to throw at Wolverine (who was ageless due to his "healing factor"), becoming a part of his background, whether it was a good idea or not.

Meanwhile, in the wake of Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, etc... and an increasing wave of acceptance of rougher material in comics, it became the comic language du jour to come up with a berserker character who was at least potentially deadly, and dub that character the "Wolverine of the group" for team books, in everything from X-Factor to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

I don't know exactly when or why I quit reading Uncanny X-Men, but I threw in the towel on Wolverine's solo title almost immediately, years before I gave up on X-Men. And at some point, something about Wolverine as a "superhero" didn't really work for me. Under Morrison, the X-Men would abandon any premise of being a comic about "superheroes", but aside from that, I just wasn't too keen on a superhero (a) stabbed people as his primary function, and (b) killed lots and lots of people. None of that sounded much like a "hero" to me. Add in what became what continues as some serious over-exposure, and I mostly lost interest in Wolverine.

The casting of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine was an accident, originally. Dougray Scott went for the surefire hit of Mission Impossible: II, featuring John Woo as a director and Tom Cruise as a co-star, bowing out of this silly little superhero movie nobody would go see. I recall seeing the first pictures of this Jackman fellow and being confused.

He was tall, lanky, and handsome. The opposite of how I pictured the guy. Fortunately, both director Bryan Singer and Jackman were on the same page with the comic version in personality (he's gruff and rough around the edges, but he's got a noble warrior's heart). And I never complained.

Wolverine was already overshadowing the rest of the X-Men (my personal favorites as a kid were Colossus, Rogue and Cyclops, and Psylocke until they made her into a ninja). Today's Marvel comics have become so Wolvie-centric that, I am not making this up, this month Wolverine is on the cover of almost every Marvel comic, whether he appears in the comic or not. The character has a rabid fan base as deep and loyal as Spidey, Superman and Batman.

And I know virtually nothing about the character as he's been presented since about 1995. I did read the "Origin" limited series in 2001 or so, which is covered in its entirety by a sequence which occurs before the credits roll in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine". It was written specifically so that the studios wouldn't just make up an origin without any input from Marvel, and it works well enough. But everything I've heard over the past ten years leads me to believe that Marvel really doesn't have a "good idea/ bad idea" policy for Wolverine's past, anyway, and that much of it seems to pop out of what I'd suggest sounds, from the outside, like bad fan-fiction (he now has a son named "Daken" or some such, who has tattoos and whatnot.).

I wasn't particularly enamored by the mini of "Origin", even if I felt the basic idea was solid. But since then, there have been numerous Wolverine origin series. And the movie is based on a lot of comics I never read and don't know much about.

The basic problem with "Wolverine" is that it feels a bit like a 90's action movie in that there's a lot of attention to superheroics, improbably stunts, etc... and absolutely no attention paid to whether the story makes sense. Unlike Transformers, which seemed to hold both the property of Transformers and the audience in disdain as not worth bothering to put together a respectable movie, Wolverine feels much more like everyone but Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber (as Victor Creed) are out of their depth, including screenwriters, director, 3D specialists and whomever had to cut the darn thing together.

It's a movie where several times the characters mournfully shout their anger to the sky, and the camera pulls back to an aerial shot (this shot should have been retired when Rainier Wolfcastle first shouted "Mendoooozzaaaaaa!) and dying people say things like "I'm so cold...". Especially in the last forty minutes or so, people seem to just be doing stuff because it moves the plot forward, not because it makes sense (why, on God's green Earth did gambit attack Sabretooth and Wolverine at that moment? and why didn't Wolverine pursue Sabretooth?).

Nothing about Stryker's plan makes any sense, aside from his end goal. The secret base in the Canadian Rockies from X2 and X3 is in the movie, but why its there, and why they use that, and what the hell Stryker bothers to imbue Wolverine's skeleton with adamantium doesn't, honestly, make much sense. Nor does the final explanation of Wolvie's memory loss. One gets the feeling all of this did make sense but... Wolverine was plagued with re-shoots.

While I am glad they didn't bother with the Madripoor stuff or try to tackle Wolverine's years in Japan, as that would have extended the movie (with five endings or so already) even further, the story they do tell is sort of... just not all that interesting. Oddly, like Watchmen, what seems far more interesting as a movie than what unfolds on screen is the stuff in the opening credits. Jason and I agreed that all THAT seemed far more interesting than the paint-by-numbers plot of the movie.

And, seriously, how many "women in refrigerators" does Logan have under his belt at this point?

The writers were aiming for fanboy acceptance, and try to cram 10 pounds of mutants into a five pound bag. Characters come and go, and its hard to care about any of them. Any thrill fans of the X-books might have been getting from seeing, say, Gambit flit briefly across the screen, was lost in the morass of 20 other mutants, many of whom I suspect debuted well after I quit the X-books.

The special FX are mostly OK. There are a few scenes in which, oddly, Wolverine's claws don't look quite right, which I found mind-boggling. How do you mess up solid metal in CG? But it just didn't look quite right. And, occasionally, when Sabretooth is hopping about, it looks a little wonky.

Nobody is all that bad in delivering the clunky lines they've got. Jackman, typically, throws himself into the Wolverine role, and there's no doubt that the replacement of Tyler Mane as Sabretooth (as seen in X-Men 1) was a very good idea.

The movie has some neat action sequences, but that's pretty much what you'd expect. If that's all you're looking for, you should do well, I suppose. But that's mostly what the movie hangs on rather than stuff like plot or character.

And, no, after 40 years of Wolverine in comics and the past few years of comic movies, I don't think fans of the material should lower their sites just because someone deigned to see fit to make a movie about their favorite character.

I'll be the first to say that Wolverine is taking 21st Century superheroics from the comic to the big screen. He's a character more fit for modern movie tastes than Superman or even Batman, in many ways. With any luck, a second Wolverine movie will take things up a notch and not be the narrative mess of this film.

But I'd probably still prefer just getting an X-Men movie over another installment in the solo missions of someone who is much more interesting as the wild-card on a team of straight arrows.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

HULK SMASH! - The League sees a movie

It will surprise exactly nobody that I went to see "The Incredible Hulk".

While I might not have loved the movie, but I liked it pretty well. That said, I only had a few criteria heading into the flick:

A) Hulk would smash a lot of military hardware
B) There would be impressive explosions
C) The fights would be increasingly cooler and bigger throughout the movie

I am happy to say that the movie delivered on all fronts.

I think if you go in looking for a popcorn movie with a solid storyline, strong actors delivering mostly believable dialog, and buy into the pseudo-science... sure. You'll have fun.

I've never really picked up much in the way of Hulk comics. I picked up "Planet Hulk" and "World War Hulk", but aside from that, and a single Bruce Jones Hulk trade, I'm not much of a reader (I do own the issue of Hulk where Rocket Raccoon gets his first appearance). I'm not married to any particular vision of the Hulk, including the TV program. But the cartoon that was on when I was pretty little probably went pretty far to shape how I think of Hulk.

I understand that Ang Lee's "Hulk" was a bit much for most folks, and there were bits of characterization I missed from Ang Lee's Hulk versus the new version (I just really felt they were able to tap into the source of the Hulk's rage a bit more understandably in Lee's version). But, hell... this version is pretty darn good.

As you've heard, they've reset the franchise, leaning 70% on the comics and 30% on the Bill Bixby/ Lou Ferrigno TV show. It has the best Stan Lee cameo to date, too.

I think the effects were really impressive in comparison to the last go-round with the Hulk, right down to texturing on Hulk's skin, but also in how the team was able to come up with some more imaginative ways in which to demonstrate the Hulk's... Hulkiness.

Anyhow, with as downright bad as many of the Marvel movies have been (FF, FF2, Ghost Rider, etc...), this one is a lot of fun. And.... explosions. And smashing. Oh, yes... The smashing.

And, you know, Liv Tyler, if you're into that (and I think I am).

Oh, Ed Norton is a really good Bruce Banner, by the way. His natural-built-in desperate look serves him well here.

Jamie's (micro) review: RRAAAARRRRGHH!!!

If you want to get an idea of what the movie is like:

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Comic Suggestion: Guardians of the Galaxy

Hey, Leaguers!

Last week a new title debuted from Marvel, and as the series is just starting, I thought I'd suggest "Guardians of the Galaxy".

The series is about a band of space-faring adventurers who, after a series of messy cosmic cataclysms decide to actually get organized and fight THREATS IN SPACE. In the classic action tradition, it's a band of rag-tag adventurers who have little in common other than that they have a mission.

Its entirely possible that the series is a bit too wrapped up in Marvel continuity for new readers, but I think series writers Abnett and Lanning do a pretty good job of making the first issue accessible (and, yeah, I think Marvel is actually far worse about continuity being an issue to new readers these days than DC).

The team includes a lot of familiar faces from the recent annihilation series, including Drax, Gamora, and the characters from the Star Lord mini-series. And that means ROCKET RACCOON (one of my favorite Marvel characters of all time). Nova makes an appearance, but is not on the team.

Mostly, the series seems like it will be fun. And The League is always looking for FUN IN SPACE. The dialog is sharp, the art is pretty nifty, and the characters just work very well together (some of whom suggest a certain light tough to the series). And, so far, it looks like the story is pointed in an interesting direction.

Apparently there was a previous series or two called Guardians of the Galaxy, which was dreamed up by the amazing Gene Colan. But, you know, I have a hard time keeping up with every darn comic that ever saw the light of day.

Anyhow, give it a shot.

Friday, May 02, 2008

I am (a guy who saw) IRON MAN

I caught Iron Man today, and I have to give it the League of Melbotis rating of: 4.5 thumbs.

My expectations for the movie were somewhat tempered by a review or two from sources such as Variety and, so I wasn't too surprised by the fact that I enjoyed the movie a great deal. That's sort of been the consensus.

Iron Man is a movie with one foot in fantasy, from the science-fiction of the armor and Tony Stark's household futuristic technology to the idealistic method in which Stark is able to redress his moral failings. The other (much smaller) foot is placed in the reality of the sort of combat our soldiers are facing overseas, and the responsibilities of folks buying yachts off the proceeds from the sale of scud missles.

The effects in Iron Man benefit from the fact that the armor is non-organic and there's no fear of the Uncanny Valley. Seeing the trailer for The Incredible Hulk, just minutes before Iron Man rolled, reminded me that despite the fact that I have no idea what an 8-foot green giant looks like, I can still look at CG-Ferrigno and know that I'm watching a nicely animated cartoon. Not so much here.

There's a lot of good stuff in Iron Man, and more than being a movie about two mad scientists duking it out, or a mad scientist and Afghani boogey-men, its much more about discovery of self and super-science development. And, kids, those scenes are a lot of fun to watch.

The talent in Iron Man is actually very impressive. Paltrow's Pepper Potts refuses to be another Mary Jane in distress. Jeff Bridges is more than a cackling villain, though the script does point him in some mad-sciencey, hand-wringing directions. Terrence Howard is a good James Rhodes, but you sort of hope he gets to suit up in Iron Man II.

And Robert Downey Jr.? For all the cliches of the movie, Downey makes you forget you've seen this movie before in bits and pieces. His Stark is not the boring guy with the mustache who kept me from reading Iron Man in middle school (alcohol problems or no). He's a guy who has already found his place in the world, he's succeeded in the ways of the American Dream, through hard work and brilliance, and he's enjoying the hell out of it. Unlike movies like Spider-Man, which show us a character in the transition of youth, we get a fully formed character with whom we get to see the exact why's and how's of their change of heart. And, maybe, being a few years out of high school, I'm relating a bit better to Tony Stark these days than Spidey. Although, you know, without the billions and genius.

Many will find Stark's moral awakening to be a contrivance, and somewhat childish. After all, blowing people up should be considered patriotic. But I found the reasons for the awakening to be plausible beyond just the confines of the story, and possibly asking some questions that Americans assume are usually taken care of, but... you know...

Anyhow, this is seriously one of the most fun superhero movies Marvel has managed to put out in a long time. Where Spidey 3 disappointed last summer, Ghost Rider utterly failed, and Fantastic Four went to the negative zone, Iron Man was a great ride.

I'm finding I'm enjoying superhero movies MORE when I don't know too much about the characters (or, like Superman Returns, its such a departure, I have nothing to compare it to). So I get the cool superhero action (and the action in this movie is pretty good), but I also don't spend the movie figuring out how this is different from the comic.

I'm looking forward to any potential sequels. And I may give this one another round before it leaves the theaters. Kids will want their Iron Man suit this Halloween. Adults will wish they could find a way to test drive the suit and have Stark's home management system.

Oh, and nerds will want to wait through the credits for the final scene of the movie. Oh, yes. You will want to stay.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Marvel Officially Much Better at Interwebs than DC

I while back The League took a look at the Marvel online comic experience with their Digital Comics Unlimited effort.

Today I saw their new website, and its really, really cool. They have some major nav issues to work out, and having Cap prominently displayed at this point is a bit... well. But there's potential here.

DC's efforts for kids are not so good. Category before characters? What are they selling, anyway? And, really, you can't actually BUY anthing off the site, so the whole point of the site is sort of up in the air.

I'm probably just really jazzed by the Iron-Man CG feature, but I think Marvel is taking a step in the right direction.

If only I could get this excited about the actual Spidey and Iron-Man comics...

Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Wrap-Up Part Two


Last year I think I swamped you guys with a lot of unfortunate year-end reflecting regarding comics. Well, this year I have a job, and am no longer reviewing comics. Also, I honestly had a lot less time to spend thinking about comics.


Civil War, Death of Captain America, World War Hulk, One More Day... and I'm sure there's tons of stuff going on in the X-Books, but I haven't read those very much in the past several years.

Mainstream Marvel saw a year of chaos, and, generally the storylines were intriguing. Recognizing that an adult audience is looking for character development and plot development (often if they do not realize it or will admit it), Marvel took the liberty this year of actually changing the status quo in the Marvel Universe.

Masks and capes are now either federally regulated or outlaws, Captain America was taken down by a sniper's bullet and the Hulk took mainstays of the Marvel U to task for their perceived crimes, and there was nothing cute about it. One More Day is turning out to be Marvel's big goof of the year, and I foresee the results being reversed within a calendar year or two. Daredevil continues to be the most interesting "super hero" comic on the stands, but I recommend picking it up in collected formats. Strictly for adults, and the only title I can think of that seems to have a fully dysfunctional but believable super hero in the lead... Anyway, Daredevil continues to be a hell of a comic.

Add in Annihilation, and my faith in the Marvel U is once again piqued. (Especially since one of the post-Annihilation books featured Rocket Raccoon.)

I believe Quesada and Buckley are doing their best to make sure that when you buy a Marvel comic, you get something beyond "fight, chase, fight", and I'm not sure either DC or smaller publishers are painting their universes with such a diverse set of brushes right now.


After a few good years, this was the year DC seriously shook my faith. The "One Year Later" event of 2006 collapsed back into a status quo by early 2007 in virtually every title. "52" had a satisfactory ending with a world of promise for the DCU as a whole, which editorial seemed to take in exactly the wrong direction. "Countdown" was simply unreadable from Week 46 to Week 26, and still, week 18, shows almost no signs of actually going anywhere. (I'm still not sure what I;m supposed to be getting out of the Piper/ Trickster storyline.)

Didio pretty clearly had a slate of writers who were willing to follow his mandates and hand in multiple scripts per month. The unfortunate part is that many of them (Bedard, Gray, Palmiotti) can't tell an intertesting story to save their lives, even with an outline in hand. Further, Didio's friends Bilson, Matteo and Green handed in stories that had a tremendous impact and were simultaneously DOA. The horrendous reboot of Flash ended with issue #13 this year and the pointless aging and death of Bart Allen (from Kid Flash to Flash in 13 easy issues). Meanwhile, Green decided he could outdo "The Killing Joke" and wrote an awkward and somewhat pedestrian re-imagining of the origin of The Joker.

Several key DC titles were running behind at the beginning of the year, including Action Comics, Batman, Wonder Woman and others. It does seem DC managed to get these titles back on track for the foreseeable future, and with the exception of the "Return of Ra's Al Ghul" storyline, they're some of the first books I read out of the stack.

Kudos this year go out to Geoff Johns (and Tomasi) for his work on the spectacular "Sinestro Corps War" in Green Lantern and the always engaging Justice Society of America.

The oddest bit of 2007 was that DC seemed to realize Things Are Not Working, and they semi-publicly seem to be taking steps to clear that up. Tony Bedard is no longer writing half of the DCU books, Countdown suddenly seems to be going somewhere, books are coming out monthly (even if storylines are wrapping up in annuals), and all titles are no longer beholden to Countdown. Furthermore, Didio saw a genuine success with the Sinestro Corps War, and I expect more events like that will be the status quo rather than Universe Wide events.

Oh, and while Supergirl still isn't very good, it's a hell of a lot better now that Berganza is no longer editing the books.

In 2008 I will be clearing a lot of titles off of my pull list. More announcements about that later.

In the meantime, go read Blue Beetle. He's the teen-age protector of El Paso! It's a darn fun comic.


2008 will be the 70th anniversary of Superman's publication, and so we may see some small events in publishing, etc... I'd expect 2013 will be the big year, with 75 years of Superman. And I'll be 38. Christ.

Anyway, 2007 saw Geoff Johns' work on Action Comics with the not-quite finished "Lat Son" storyline, the Bizarro Worls three-issue run with Eric Powell (a fun read. Highly recommended.) and the Legion story currently taking place in Action. Johns' work is fantastic, and while some of the folks who came to Superman in the Byrne age might be put off by the Bronze-Age flair the comics have, I'm really enjoying them.

Kurt Busiek has been writing his own mini-events in the oft-overlooked "Superman" title. What's intriguing to me about Kurt's run is that he's making a conscious effort to establish the elements of Superman's life and tell stories in a manner which went out of fashion about ten to fifteen years ago. In short, while he's writing self-contained stories, there's a general backdrop that doesn't seem linked only to six-issue stories aimed at a trade collection. He's in it for the long-haul, and its helping out the mainstream Superman books immeasurably to have that context.

Mr. Busiek is telling engaging stories with a greater thematic vision than "Superman meet bad guy, Superman fight bad guy" and taking a look at Superman's place within his universe in a way that other writers have tried to do (including Azzarello) and haven't necessarily succeeded. I did feel the "Fall of Camelot" storyline had a satisfactory ending, but felt it had been cut a bit short.

Looking forward to upcoming issues.

That said, Kurt... more Subjekt 17.

"All Star Superman" is a critical darling for a reason, and if I were to recommend picking up one Superman comic, this would be it. From Quitely's refreshingly metitative art work to Morrison's larger-than-life scripts, it's a comic that seems to have a bit of something for anyone. It does feel a bit like the Superman comic you always wanted to pick up and read, but just never existed until now.

I don't foresee All Star Superman making it past issue 13 or so as Morrison moves on, but I imagine it will live on in collected formats for some time.

Superman also starred in the straight-to-DVD movie "Superman Doomsday", which has little to nothing to do with the original Death of Superman comics from the early 90's. As DC's first PG-13 animated feature, it was a lot of fun to see Superman cut loose on the screen the way he occasionally does in the comics. Unfortunately, I'm not sure the second half of the movie lives up to the promise of the first half.

That said, it also doesn't seem to go off in the "all-action, no logic" direction of the original "Return of Superman" comics.


Two big stories wrapped up the year in digital comics.

Firstly, Marvel launched Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. Their service, for $60 a year, would give readers access to a partial library of Marvel comics. The project has been widely criticized for the lack of completeness, as runs of series currently available as collections are not available as part of the site. In short, Marvel seems to be asking readers to pay for a marketing tool.

At $60 a year, I'm not sure this is a bad deal or worth complaining about. After all, the cover price on most Marvel comics is $3, and trades run about $18 for around siz issues worth of comics. But as I have as of yet to pay $60 myself for the service, I can't say whether it's worth the money.

DC is watching Marvel closely, but they seem content to continue to publish printed collections of older material. I suspect DC's marketing research has told them that their audience is older and seems willing to pay for printed collections. As DC spent 2006 and 2007 ramping up their trade collections department, they've done a great job of bringing collections to their audience, and that audience has been happy to pay the fairly low prices associated with the collections.

One day, perhaps, DC will have a stronger online effort. I've heard in 2008 the Archives Editions may disappear in favor of another model. I'll be keeping an eye open for what they'll do next. But I suspect it won't be online.

The other big story was that DC and Marvel jointly began asking the sites which were illegally carrying scanned copies of comics to knock it off. Honestly, I have no idea what the sites were thinking. Their activity was pretty clearly illegal, and they were getting a lot of hits.

There is an argument in the comic community that the free comics online were nothing but great marketing for the print collections. From an informal poll I took at work (and we have lots of guys and girls at work who read comics), this is sort of true, but not really. The truth seems to be that the $3 cover price for comics is simply too steep for what they're willing to pay for comics they'll read once. And I'm increasingly in agreement. What they do not do very often is actually purchase any comics whatsoever.

What I personally found ludicrous were the voices online who were outraged that the free comics sites had been shut down. For people who read comics every day about de facto law enforcement, the understanding of legal v. illegal and what is stealing and what is not is a little shakey. If you're going to illegally download comics, at least know what you're doing.

2007 saw the rise of popular web strips such as Achewood and Perry Bible Fellowship, which give me a lot more hope for comic strips (in print OR online) than, say, Fred Basset. And I continue to enjoy the hell out of Daniel Fu's action comic "The Retriever" (bookmark it and check weekly for updates).

That's it

No list of my favorite comics. This went on way longer than I expected. Hope you kids enjoy. More comics in 2008!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sensational Spider-Man #41


Probably the worst kept secret/ most telegraphed play in comics of late has been Marvel's long pondered method of ending Peter Parker's 20-year marriage to Mary Jane Watson.

How does one end a marriage and manage to keep everyone smelling like roses? How does one split up two characters incredibly popular across all of comic fandom? Especially after all the craziness Peter Parker and Mary Jane have supposedly endured together and always come up totally pleased as punch with one another?

Fortunately, superhero universes, especially SHARED superhero universes, tend to be littered with all-powerful mystical whatzits and whatnots. And while Spider-Man is mostly famous for containing his adventures to the sky-scraper canyons of the Big Apple, fighting a string of animal-themed cretins, he does live in the same fictional vision of NYC that contains the Fantastic Four, Dr. Strange and the Avengers.

It's probably worth noting: at the conclusion of Civil War (like, a year ago...), dear old Aunt May took a bullet meant for Peter. She was just standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. In order to save Aunt May's life, Peter and MJ have been given an opportunity for a possible deal, literally with the devil. In order to save May's life, Mephisto wants... (wait for it...) THEIR MARRIAGE.

Because Peter and MJ are supposed to be all-around good folk, we know that they'll make the deal and Joe Quesada will have his swingin' bachelor Peter Parker he's been wanting since taking over as EIC a few years back. We know that neither Peter nor MJ would allow May to die. I'm not disputing this point as some bloggers have done. I'll accept it as a believable character decision.

Supposedly the Devil Mephisto gets something out of the knowledge that Peter was happy, and now he will be less-so. EXCEPT that Peter won't remember that he was ever married, so its some teeny-tiny part of his brain that can remember, but, really... no. Neither Peter nor MJ will remember. So... Really, Mephisto seems much more interested in confusing 20+ years of comics continuity.

Here's what's bugging me, Leaguers: Rather than writing a story that reflects the grim realities that a tense time can put on a marriage and end it in the ugly, not-terribly-fun way that marriages actually end, they've created a Magical Divorce Machine.

To this reader, the method of dissolving the marriage is editorial cowardice.

Comics readers are big boys and girls, and as much as we don't like it when Mommy and Daddy fight, having the devil steal Spider-Man's marriage makes no sense. This sort of plot doesn't seem true to forty years of comics. It isn't in keeping with the street-level tone Spider-man has maintained for the vast, vast duration of its run. It's not true to the Spider-Man we've seen lift up a 100 ton undersea machine. It's not Spider-Man. It's a deus ex machina plot point and a fairly lazy one at that.

If he was any sort of devil, wouldn't Mephisto ask Peter to kill a random person and remember it? Or do something else hopelessly heinous? Maybe turn the past twenty years of Parker's life into one in which Spider-Man is a horrible criminal? Not that forgetting your marriage is a bad thing, but if neither of you remember it... I dunno.

I guess I'm just casting aspersions on Mephisto's ability to be actually evil and not just a nuisance.

It's interesting to note that Marvel has apparently come to an executive decision that, despite fans responses of "don't do it!" and "meh" when asked about a bachelor Peter Parker... they've resorted to a plot contrivance like Mephisto in order to make it work. This path, I guess, keeps Parker's nose clean as a face to put on lunchpails, etc... and I can appreciate the business necessity of such a decision. After all, some editors have tried to find a path to divorce Superman and Lois, but nobody could come up with anything not involving a Crisis Wave. Plus, really, the Magical Divorce Machine is going to give editorial a "get out of Jail" card if the fans do revolt. After all, writers can turn to that greatest of Spider Wish Granters, Dr. Strange, and make it all go away.

It is interesting that comics will show, in detail, all sorts of physical hurts and injuries that most readers will never experience. What they will not show, however, are the fairly mundane aspects of everyday life. And that's just weird. I know, I know... escapism. Whatever.

Perhaps the readership can't actually handle their Spider-Hero getting a divorce, but can handle grim destruction and violence as the idea of a building coming down around one's ears. Unlike divorce, the Scorpion coming at you with his deadly tail is so foreign an idea, its nothing but an abstraction. Perhaps the image of Mommy and Daddy agreeing that they'd be happier apart than together hits a little too close to home. But it's certainly not the sign of mature storytelling to avoid such a common topic as divorce and believe only the devil can make two good people go their separate ways.

As I said. Editorial cowardice.

I'm not sure if I'll actually drop Spider-Man. I'm not outraged. And I've seen plenty worse. I'm mostly just disappointed that Marvel couldn't continue down the organic path of the story of Peter Parker and, if they felt the need to dissolve the marriage, simply do so in a way that would make sense in context of the past forty years of comics.

The next and final issue of "One More Day" is coming out soon, and we'll find out if Petey and MJ give up a life of wedded bliss for a nice old lady to have a few more years. So far the decision isn't made. Marvel has a chance to actually do something interesting here. And, in the hands of the right writers and editors, anything could happen.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Marvel DCU

It's probably not a good omen for the new online effort from Marvel, but they've named it Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, aka: Marvel DCU. Keep in mind, DCU is also how DC Comics (Marvel's prime competition) refers to its entire line of comics: The DC Comics Universe. Sadly, I doubt anyone at DC ever thought to copyright "DCU", or else they couldn't. Apparently DCU is also the stock ticker for Dry Clean USA.


In addition, Marvel hasn't made it clear what you're actually buying if you sign up for their annual subscription service. It's a $60.00 investment for a year, which... when comics are going for $3.00 a pop, that's not a bad price for access to thousands of comics. Especially when you know it's less than $5.00 a month.

The problem is that I'm not sure which comics they're making available. I'm certainly not interested if Marvel is placing all of their failed series online, but only a few issues of a series I want to read. If they're placing a bunch of their content online and planning on keeping it there, that's great (think Netflix comics).

Right now the entire first 100 issues of FF, Spidey and X-Men are online. Buying collections, that might set you back over $100. But what about newer stuff? What if I want to read all of Annihilation online?

It seems almost as if Marvel is using the online effort as more of a marketing effort than a new way to approach comics. They seem interested in providing back stories, etc... but they seem overly concerned with treading on the toes of their current distribution model (ie: 32 page comics followed by trade collections).

Marvel isn't going to want to step on the toes of their distributors. It doesn't behoove them to lower the number of folks walking into comic shops and killing the golden goose, so it more or less makes sense that they aren't putting new comics out online. The fact is, had Marvel or DC gone online in the 90's or early 2000's, they probably wouldn't be as worried about cutting into the comic-buying/ paper collecting audience. However, with an audience that only ever expands to about 150,000 for a best-selling comic (and down to about 20,000 before it faces cancellation) losing any sales from comic shops is a major problem. Especially at $5.00 a month.

Whether Marvel learns to offer their newer comics online at a premium rate remains to be seen. It certainly seems like a possibility.

Despite the better arguments of Scott McCloud for how comics were going to go online and change the world, comics don't work terribly well online. clicking to reach the next panel doesn't necessarily jive with the composition and gestalt of the comic page (and I am not limiting comics to the usual folded tabloid size here). There's no flow between panels as a passive experience when you have to engage the page.

That said:

Either a very good sign or very bad sign, the site has been so busy that Marvel hasn't actually made this work. In two days, I have yet to see an online comic. Not exactly awe-inspiring from a technical standpoint. I can understand the problems in the first few hours, but...

For collectors like myself, I'd like to not have a house full of comics or graphic novels I've read once, and I'd like the option of not dropping $20 to read reprints I may not find I enjoy. But mostly, I am sure Jamie would like it if I found a way to NOT bring more collections and comics into the house. I think that's easily worth a handful of shekels per year.

I'm still pondering the Marvel subscription. I'm never a first adopter, and this is one more case where I'm waiting to hear more before I jump on board. That said, if anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas... a Marvel Digital Comics subscription would be swell...


I finally got on to try a sample. I did find their interface to be straightforward and easy to use. I'm still not sure all of what is available to the subscriber, but any fears I had about how the pages would be formatted is no longer a concern. You just need a decent sized monitor set to a decent sized resolution. I guess buyer beware on that count.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Iron Man Trailer Now Online!

Iron Man trailer is up! And it looks like its going to be a heck of a popcorn movie.

Must have QuickTime or other Apple Media player.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

comic post

Today was once again new comic day, as it is so often on Wednesdays.

The highlight of my DC selections this week is Green Lantern. There's a great story going on here called the Sinestro War, which is tying together elements from decades of DC Comics (but doesn't necessarily require a masters in DCU), while adding in new elements. It's just an absolutely huge story, and is infinitely better scoped and written than the ultra-dull Amazons Attack! in Wonder Woman and in its own limited series.

Countdown is rapidly becoming a huge disappointment. I'm beginning to wish the Jimmy Olsen storyline were just a back-up feature in Superman and/ or Action Comics.

Over at Marvel, I've picked up recent issues of Spider-Man, Hulk, World War Hulk, Thor and a few other titles. (Hey, Thor just moved to Oklahoma! Who knew?)

By and large, I think DC is having some serious problems with editorial driving things and rewarding Dan Didio loyalist writers with work they aren't qualified for. It's certainly harming Countdown as whatever scheme Dini is putting together keeps getting mired down in glacial pacing, clumsy dialog and the now grim reminder on the cover of each issue how many more weeks of this we're putting up with.

Further, the limited series tying into other editorial mismanagement, such as the Green Arrow/ Black Canary wedding stuff is leading into half-baked limited series.

I'm caught in a bit of a pickle as I'm the resident DC reviewer for Comic Fodder, and, right now, I'm about ready to give up on a whole bunch of DC. But I'm just tired of shelling out money for comics written by guys who don't deliver and seem to be responsible for huge portions of DC's output.

Meanwhile, guys like Morrison and Mark Waid have kind of disappeared to the sidelines, when DC should really be putting these guys front and center as the controlling factor in the DC Universe. Fortunately, Geoff Johns seems to have no problem maintaining his high profile, and is doing good thinsg with the GL Corps (with Dave Gibbons and Patrick Gleason making GL Corps a solid book).

Right now, though, I'd be putting my money on Marvel. World War Hulk is idiot simple with high concept, and seems to be delaying some ctastrophic event, but at least its interesting. Thor is just out there enough that even a guy like me who could usually give a flip about Thor is picking it up.

Spidey... well, we'll see. I'm just so curious about where this is going that that I really, really hope they don't totally drop the ball on me.

FF is okay, too. But I dig Black Panther. I'm not as crazy about the depiction of Storm, but I haven't been okay with Storm since she gave up the mohawk and leathers. Those were the days.

Overall, the Superman books are better than anything during the Berganza run, aside from maybe the initial No Limits stuff and parts of Our Worlds at War. Actually, no... this stuff is still mostly better.

Batman and Detective, wen not waiting through a fill-in artist, are both really sound Batman books.

And, personally, i've been really digging JLA and JSA, as well as their respective "Classified" sister series.

If anyone feels like going comic shopping, let me know. We may want to just save up for the big Labor Day blow-out at Austin Books.

All you back issues of Jimmy Olsen will be mine! MINE!!!!!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The League Surfs with the Alien

Saturday I wound up going to see Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

I might also add that due to logistical reasons, this was the first time in months I've been to a movie anywhere by the Alamo, and while the crowd was really good, it just isn't the same going to a movie when I can't drink a beer and eat a pizza.

Anyhow, the past few years have seen superhero movies which have defied all previous expectations, merging special effects, well crafted stories and respect for the source material to bring terrific entertainment to the screen. In no way should you make the mistake of believeing FF: RotSS, is to be included among these films.

FF: RotSS is a bit of a throwback to 80's era comic adaptations wherein the source material was briefly glanced at, and a few production designers who may have done their homework slipped in a bit or two from the original comics, but otherwise, the movie was pretty clearly not taken terribly seriously as producers cashed in and tried to keep a straight face when reporters asked them about what drew them to the material.

In this movie, any memory of Sue Storm as a brilliant scientist is swept under the rug as she's offered the task of Reed's girlfriend/ administrative assistant, while mostly whining a lot about a fancy wedding (oh, you girls and your romantic notions!). Sue is one of my favorite Marvel characters, and its disappointing to see her reimagined as an "E! Network" watching girl who has defined herself by her relationship with Mr. Fantastic. Reed is unable to remember he's about to get married, the Thing is... uncharacteristically happy throughout the film, and Johnny comes to some sort of nebulous conclusion about not being a jerk. I think.

The whole thing has the production value of a late 90's TV movie, with some upped CGI. That said, a lot of Reed's stretching looks... not good. And Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm is hammy enough that one expects a trombone after each line to blurt out a "wahhh-waaahhhhhhh". Plus, man, that makeup sucks. If we can have a CGI Surfer, why not a CGI Thing?

The threats in this film are double as Victor Von Doom returns from the dead and... I dunno. That guy is nowhere close to the Von Doom of the comics, although the script does play toward Doom's tendency to always try to tilt the game in his favor. But this Von Doom is like a smarmy Owen Wilson character more than an Eastern European monarch hellbent on worldwide domination.

For being mostly a well mimed CGI effect (thank Pan's Labyrinth's Doug Jones) The Silver Surfer seems to be partaking in a completely different, far less stupid movie. Based loosely on the original FF comics featuring Galactus and the Surfer, the Surfer arrives ahead of Galactus as his herald, preparing Earth for his master's arrival. The Surfer seemingly believes he has no choice in the matter, and goes numbly about his tasks until confronted by the FF.

From here, things sort of go downhill for the FF as the bravery of their task from the 2/3rd points in the movie mostly seems to consist of breaking the Silver Surfer out of jail and then getting their butts handed to them by Doom. The actual presence of Galactus and mode of defeating the planet eater from the comics (which didn't leave the FF acting like slack jawed yokels, but Reed figuring out how to freak Galactus out by threatening existence if Galactus didn't back off) isn't invoked. Instead, it's a bit more abstract, and nebulous. It works, but it means that at no pint in the movie do the FF actually succeed at anything they attempt aside from running away. They just don't seem all that competent. And the final plan when Johny Storm does leap into action actually contradicts everything we thought we knew about the problems we believed he was having with his powers.

The producers also decided that of all the things in the FF comics to scrap, the one thing which just wouldn't work was Galactus' physical appearance. So, he's a cloud. Which is very Star Trek Next Generation, but not very satisfying. The movies are already horribly devoid of the Kirby styling which defined the comics for decades, so it would have been nice to see our guy, who has one of the most stylized appearances in comicdom... but, no... we get a sort of silhouette glimpse of his helmet.

BTW, I also think Ultimate Galactus blows. Bugs? Come on, man...

The movie is full of cute/dumb moments, meant to play to the same crowd who really likes Rob Schneider movies and who roared at the trailer for "Daddy Day Care 2: Daddy Day Camp" (Eddie Murphy was apparently too busy for this sequel, so cue Cuba Gooding "My Career is Over" Jr.). You can almost imagine the story session in which the writers thought NOTHING would advance the story like a dance sequence featuring Reed "stretch-o" Richards. It's funny 'cause he's strechy and stuff.

Oh, and the product placement... including a "It's got a hemi!" joke during some awkward Dodge product placement.

I really didn't have high hopes for this movie, and it still stunk. Weirdly, the portions featuring The Silver Surfer operate on a whole different level that, had the rest of the movie shown that sort of care, might have made for an enjoyable film.

This, however, is not that movie.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Marvel'ing at The Leagues other choices

As many readers of League of Melbotis will note, my interests skew largely toward the comics published by DC Comics.

The other powerhouse on that end of the comics spectrum is Marvel Comics, publisher of titles such as Spider-Man, Avengers, Iron Man, Fantastic Four and more.

As much as I love my DC, I'm not immune to the charms of the Marvel U. Recently I've been reading the "Civil War" cross-over and mega-event, as well as some of the fallout titles, such as "The Initiative".

Leaguers such as Peabo and Reedo will recall my former interest in X-Men and X-Men related titles. Sadly, my interest in Marvel's Merry Mutants hasn't been terribly high since Claremont left the X-Books in the early 90's. I enjoyed a brief resurgence with Grant Morrison's "New X-Men" and have followed that series and Joss Whedon's "Astonishing X-Men" as trade paperback collections. Both Whedon and Morrison told the kind of mutant-centric tales I enjoy, although Whedon seems to skew too far into generic superheroic tales.

I also pick up the Ultimate Spider-Man collections (which Jamie reads before I do), the Ultimates collections, and the Supreme Power trades (although I've not picked up the new Squadron Supreme books).

With "The Initiative", I'm once again picking up monthly Marvel titles as I try to suss out what the new Marvel universe will look like. For those who don't know, the Marvel U recently passed a law asking all the superheroes to register as federal agents, quit, or become outlaws. It's a fairly major seismic shift, and it's piqued my interest.

My other Marvel reading includes two of the Spider-Man books (as my love of Spidey comes and goes, but never really fades all together). I'm having a hard time picking up Peter David's "Friendly neighborhood Spider-Man". Something about Peter David has never really worked for me, although I don't react exactly negatively to his work. The issues I have picked up have been okay, but...

Black Panther has been on my pull list for a while. I love the idea of the book (king of a highly advanced African nation who uses super-intellect, super-tech and herbal supplements to defend his nation in both combat and "the hard stare" diplomacy), even if I do not always love the execution. I'm also picking up "Fantastic Four" while Black Panther enjoys a short stay on the team. We'll see if I stick with it.

Daredevil is a must-read (no, really. I think there should be a law), but it reads best in a collected format. Whether you're picking up Bendis' amazing run, or Brubaker's equally fascinating stories, I prefer to have a full Daredevil tale that I can sit and read in an evening. That said, the recent runs of Daredevil from Bendis and Brubaker are some of the best "superhero" comics out there, and fall in an interesting gap that looks a bit more like "the real world" than most comics. And it's generally far, far better than the movie from a few years back.

Marvel is also dipping into the world of literary adaptation. I picked up the first issue of "Last of the Mohicans" last week, and was pleasantly surprised. The dialog seems as if it was taken from the original book, and the art is okay, if not always great. The adventure genre translates very well to comics. However, I don't know if I like the multi-issue format, especially as I know that once the series is collected I'd proudly keep an illustrated "Last of the Mohicans" out on my shelf. So, yeah, I'll be picking up this series as a collection, as well as the upcoming "Treasure Island" (actually, especially "Treasure Island" which I loved reading when I was 10). Now, lets' get an illustrated "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

In many ways I'm not a fan of Marvel's Cosmic adventuring, such as Adam Warlock or even Captain Marvel. The concepts are usually much more interesting than the execution. I attempted to get into "Annihilation" limited series from last year, but just didn't make it past the second issue. But it looks like Marvel has sucked me back in. How, you ask?

Cover by NIC KLEIN
Annihilation: Conquest continues here - - with the war book that brings back cosmic cult faves from throughout the decades! Peter Quill is once again Star-Lord - - but what could possibly make him take on his former identity? And what brings together the motley crew that includes Bug, Captain Universe, Deathcry, Mantis, Groot and Rocket Raccoon? Grab your blaster and say your prayers as Keith Giffen (ANNIHILATION) and soon-to-be star Timothy Green (Rush City) deliver a sci-fi twist on Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99

You didn't read the above solicitation, so let me point you to the two words that have me sold on this comic: Rocket Raccoon.

In middle-school I picked up the Rocket Raccoon mini-series from Austin Books (two owners ago). You either love/get Rocket Raccoon or you don't. Surely this book was never going to appeal to 80's comic fans seeking even more ninjas, but it DID appeal to those of us who liked the idea of a laser-pistol wielding raccoon with rocket-skates. Oh, yes. It did.

And it still does.

To explain the plot would be nothing but a grave injustice to the mayhem of the series, so i won't try. But after two decades of cooling his heels (and rocket skates), Rocket Raccoon will be appearing in a comic once again.

Let's all hope they collect the mini-series in some sort of prestige format.

And to get my current dose of RR, I'll have to jump into the middle of a massive cosmic cross-over that I abandoned some time ago. Go figure.