Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday Pickups 3/14/12

The invasion of the #1s continues this week with entries from Avatar Press, Image, and Oni Press; Accompanied by old favorites Unwritten and the X-Men! I will give you a few moments to compose yourself after that shock... ok, long enough.

Kicking things off is X-Men Legacy #263, written by Christos Gage with pencils by David Baldeon. Contradicting the beliefs that lead them to separate from Cyclops group, Rogue and the other staff of the Jean Grey School  must team up with Cyke's young, mutant militia to stop Exodus from killing old one-eye. While it's not my favorite of the mutant titles, I do like how this book has become the most contemplative of them, reflecting it's main character's (Rogue) journey all the better. At first glace Baldeon's art might seem to clash with that idea, but it ends up working quite well as his detailed facial expressions convey just as much conflict as his muscle-bound, action panels. Not a must buy, but definitely a title to check out if "Schism" left you wanting as much as it did for me.

Switching universes, we head over to Ultimate Comics X-Men #9 to see what Nick Spencer and Paco Medina are cooking up. Camp Angel, the government's internment camp for mutants, takes center stage this issue as those who it affects most are finally privy to the truth behind the creation of mutants. While I've been waiting for them to deal with this since the camp was first shown (in issue #1 if I'm not mistaken), I have to say this is the most disappointing issue of the comic so far. Now to quantify that statement, my major problem from the issue is the creative team plugging in the 616 Storm (aka the Storm that readers of regular marvel comics) in place of the unique Storm of this universe for most of the comic. To this reader, who is pretty familiar with both, it just reads as a lazy and cheap way to build the issue's climax. Hoping Spencer and Medina don't have any more like this in their remaining few issues together, or I might end up looking forward to creative team change coming later this year.

Heading over to Vertigo we have The Unwritten #35, the conclusion of "Tommy Taylor and the War of Words." The battle we've been waiting for is finally here, Tommy (with his newly minted magical powers) vs. the man who killed his father, but is either the other's true enemy? Another fantastic issue from Carey and Gross, tilting the world on the reader just as they're sure they've found solid footing in the book. I've read very few comics that have kept this high quality of story-telling and art through out their run, and fewer still that have such an original concept. Not only a must buy issue, but a must buy series every month!

Getting into the #1s, we have the first issue of Crossed: Badlands. Here we are introduced to a new group of survivors, by Garth Ennis (writer) and Jacen Burrows (artist), in the bloodiest of all lands, the U.K. Not a great issue, but an ok/disgusting read if your mind and stomach can handle it. Hopefully Ennis is just shaking off the rust with this first issue, and brings his "A" game in the next few; after all it's been a few years since he played in this universe. The better Crossed debut of the week comes from the internet and is FREE, so get over to and check it out (unless you're at work, in which case wait till later.) Si Spurrier and Javier Barreno (the creative talent on the web comic Crossed: Wish You Were Here) know exactly how to bring a reader in, with an interesting main character and an "interesting" Crossed.

From Image we have the most talked about title of the week and maybe the last few for that matter, Saga #1. Written by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Fiona Staples, Saga follows two new parents as they try to give their newborn baby girl a chance at life, by evading the opposing interplanetary armies that would see her and them dead or imprisoned. Call me a sap, but I loved this first issue. It perfectly presents the characters, the world, and their problems in over-sized issue, all for the (formerly) standard price of $2.99 (or $1.99 if you were lucky enough to shop at one of the Amazing Fantasy Books and Comics shops in South Chicagoland.) Some may find it a bit heavy-handed but I can't help falling for Staples dynamic panels and Vaughan's young narrator. Mixing the best elements of sci-fi and fantasy, this is a title I can definitely get behind and certainly recommend every one gives it a shot.

Narrowly beating out Saga for the top spot this week is The Secret History of D.B. Cooper #1, published by Oni Press. Telling the "true" story behind the mysterious man that is/was D.B. Cooper, this comic ventures into a world of talking stuffed teddy bears and psychological hit-men seamlessly. In what is the first work I've read by him (although he is already established in the industry) Brian Churilla knocks it out of the park, while wearing both the artist and writer's hats! I normally hesitate to call an issue perfect but here I gladly use it, if only to try and express just how much I enjoyed this comic. Even if you're not into historical mysteries (or fictional elements being added to them), this comic has something for everyone including well executed sci-fi elements and strong, defined characters. While I would like you to try most of the comics mentioned here, THIS IS THE ONE YOU MUST TRY!

Ok, that's it for this week and since we're a little later than planned you've probably already pillaged the fresh goods from your local comic shop. If you haven't however, give Smoke & Mirrors #1 (looking forward to it myself), Red Hood and the Outlaws #7 (Screw the haters, probably the funnest book in the DCnU), or John Carter: The Gods of Mars #1 of 5 (I'm waiting for the trade but that art fabulous art by Ramon Perez is sure going to make it a long wait) a shot. Done, now go read comics or make some so I can read them or blog/podcast about them so I read/listen to that.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Wednesday Pickups 3/7/12

Attempt #207 to get my weekly comic reviews back on track, odds of success: 3720 to 1. So you're saying there's a chance?

First up this week chock-full of inaugural issues, 3 of them including this one coming from Image, is Fairest #1. Spinning out of the pages of Fables, this new ongoing seeks to tell the stories of the universe's fairer maidens but opens with the prince of thieves, Ali Baba, getting into some mischief. Featuring stunning artwork (with pencils by Phil Jimenez, inks by Andy Lanning, and colors by Andrew Dalhouse) and witty dialogue (Bill Willingham on writing duties) this issue is a fun read but might be a bit dense for the first of the series. I leave it at might, because while it seems that a lot of this story was previously set up in Fables, that could just Willingham dropping us a little further in and playing catch up somewhere down the line. Honestly, if you're reading Fables, I'm betting you'll be picking this up and you should since it has the makings of being a fun book. On the other hand, if your a little unfamiliar with the universe (such as myself, only having read the first Cinderella trade) I would recommend checking out Fables first or waiting for this to be collected and getting more of the story in one sitting.

Next up, also hailing from Image, is The Manhattan Projects #1. The Brothers Oppenheimers' lives had led them down very different paths, as one is recruited to the secret government think tank the comic gets it's title from the other suffers through a rather unsavory event. Jonathan Hickman writes a spectacular script to the start of this fictional account of the Manhattan Project, imagining it as dealing with anything supper powered or occult in World War II as well as developing nuclear weapons. Complimenting Hickman's all-encompassing plot, Nick Pitarra's detailed art tells just as much about the characters we meet, and Cris Peter's colors give them a life all their own. While I was a little skeptical going into the book, I immensely enjoyed this first issue and can't recommend it enough to fans of sci-fi and historical fiction. At the very least give it a flip through while browsing at your comic shop of choice, I promise you won't be disappointed.

Concluding this trio of Image first issues is Hell Yeah #1. Perpetual slacker Ben Day seemingly lives in a perfect world, where 20 years ago superheroes showed up and started it on the path towards utopia, that is until a group of super-chicks from another dimension come looking for him. While it may sound like a premise that's been done already, writer Joe Keatinge and illustrator Andre Szymanowicz have put their own spin on it that I can best describe as something of a cross between the movies Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Rebel Without A Cause (or if you're looking for more of a comic comparison, it feels a bit like the first issue of The Strange Talent of Luther Strode.) While the book presents you with an antiquated rebellious teen, or so he seems at first glance, it also doesn't mind laughing at him and giving the reader a few laughs as well. The first issue might not have been enough to draw other readers in, but I'm thoroughly intrigued and will be picking up the next few issues to see where it goes.

Taking a break from this #1-a-thon, I decided to check out Avengers Academy #27; partly due to urging from John over at the Burnt Weiners Podcast and partly due to the Runaways making a guest appearance. In this part 1 of "War With The Runaways", Nico and gang show up looking for help in getting back their dino-member Old Lace, but their understandable problems with authority figures set them on a collision course with the Academy faculty. Yes, hero groups meeting to do battle is nothing new (actually, I'm pretty sure the Runaways did this just last year with the Young Avengers, which is neither here nor there) but I will give writer Christos Gage the benefit of the doubt with it as he at least manages to keep the personalities involved interesting. Art-wise though the book gets less leeway though, as more than a few panels just felt out of proportion to me and don't exactly leave me wanting to look at anymore. That said, I'm going to at least finish out this two part arc, and pay the title a bit more attention when looking at previews, especially now that I know it revived Juston Seyfret from the early 2000's Sentinel series.

Back to the first issue trend, but staying with Marvel, we have Age of Apocalypse #1. Humanity's hope of survival is dwindling fast with their only hope being the de-powered Jean Grey, Sabretooth, and The X-Terminated against Weapon Omega's (formerly this world's Wolverine) mutant domination. While I really enjoy this issue, knew I would like David Lapham's writing but ended up liking Roberto De La Torre's art more than I would have thought, I do think it might put up a barrier to new readers and those that might be jumping back in to the AOA since it's original creation so many years ago. The book expects a reader to be just a bit more familiar with what is going on than I would like in a first issue, similar to my complaint with Fairest #1 from earlier in this post. The good news here though, is that Lapham's writing style will be quick to erase that gap within a few issues, as I feel he often gentle adds a little bit of summary to his books as they go on. On the other hand, if you don't want to wait that long Uncanny X-Force #19.1 is a great introduction to this universe (which I reviewed only a handful of post ago, saying it should be called Age of Apocalypse #0 instead) and was only released in January so it should still be on your local shop's shelf. Definitely looking forward to more though, as I love me some Lapham and this universe really grew on me after being featured in Remender's Uncanny X-Force.

Saving the best for last, from DC comics we have Swamp Thing #7. Every thing Alec Holland has been going through in the first six issues comes to a head here as he must make his final decision on whether or not to once again become the Swamp Thing, that is if it isn't already too late. As usual Scott Snyder (writer) and Yanick Paquette knock it out of the park! Synder (as he has already proven with American Vampire and Severed) can balance themes just as well if not better than anyone else in the business, doing so in this book with the all demanding nature and the ever-present horror. As if that wasn't enough, his dialogue manages to take the characters a step beyond the page; shaping them not just by what they say, but how they say it. That right there is enough for a great book, but Paquette's art brings it up to the amazing ranking. His panel structure is so fluid and pencils so detailed that you just want to hang every page of this book on your wall, unless you have little ones it might give them nightmares. Also, just want to get in a quick mention of the job Nathan Fairbairn does with the colors on this issue; the reds. blacks, and greens all fit together so well not just with the art but with the major themes already being examined and coming up soon. Seriously if you're reading any DC books and this isn't one of them, your doing it wrong.

Well, that is it for this week. Basically a bunch of great books that you should be checking out and one of two that may be a little more niche. Looking forward to this coming week, there is another wave of #1s on the horizon as Saga, Crossed: Badlands, and the Secret History of D.B. Cooper all premiere; plus, as usual with me, a bunch of X-Men books drop that I will be sure to grab. Any thoughts/questions/suggestions, go ahead and leave those down below in the comments, and if not see you back here in 7*.

(*Intentionally left off the measurement for that 7 so I could take as long as I want to write next week's post mwhahahahaha! But seriously, it I'll try and keep it to 7 days.)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Stay Classy Barsoom: A review of the film "John Carter"

A classic, fantasy adventure film is something of a dying breed in Hollywood, as every year more and more comic book super-heroes or flashy, speed-ramped combatants dominate the box office. Now I'm not seeking to vilify all of them, as I enjoy more than a few, but the sheer amount can become tiring and repetitious. Thankfully these trends have yet to make it to Mars, (or Barsoom as it is known to the locals) the setting of director Andrew Stanton's first live-action feature, John Carter.

Adapted from the story "A Princess of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter follows the titular character, a former Civil War soldier played by Taylor Kitsch, as he is transported to a strange land not his own and drawn into alien feuds he could never have imagined. A simple concept, by today's standards, but embracing that and reveling in the wonder and awe that can be found in such a tale, is just what makes this film so special.

Stanton, whose previous directing credits come from the much loved Pixar films WALL-E and Finding Nemo, once again utilizes his ability to take a story and make it an enchanting, fun, and visual spectacle for the big screen. Filling the barren, desert landscape with fantastical air ships, swashbuckling sword fights, and interesting creatures of all manner; the film hearkens back to a time when an adventure film sought to immerse you in it's world rather than just bombard you with the latest techniques everyone is copying (although it does have the posted-added 3D effect but I would hazard a guess that addition was Disney's choice.) Of course Stanton's vision isn't the only factor that breathes life in to the film, a great number of contributing factors help this movie to really shine. Good performances by all main actors, a fitting score by Michael Giacchino, and the fine source material provided by Burroughs are all worth mentioning.

The film also has a couple problems, but nothing that really ends one's enjoyment of it. Chief among these errors is the some of the film's dialogue. While there are a few good lines and many just fine ones, there are also quite a few that make a view want to roll their eyes out the back of their head. Terrible dialogue is nothing new to the genre, but it is something a bit more time on the script or at table reads could have weeded out. The other major annoyance I have with the film is it running just a bit too long. By the end one does want the film to keep going, which is a testament to how it plays overall, but there are a number of scenes that drag a bit and cutting them down to bring the film under the two hour mark would only enhance it's enjoyment.

Overall though, I really liked John Carter and give it 4 out of 5 stars. I also recommend you getting out there to see it this weekend if you have the time. Fans of classic, sci-fi/fantasy films and who want more of them in the coming years should be at the front of these lines, as initial reports don't predict this film doing well at the box office. So head out to your local theater now, and go see Andrew Stanton bring something new, but also something time-honored to the big screen.