Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Green Lantern #66 (War of the Green Lanterns Pt. 7) - Review

Hal and Guy Vs. The Guardians!


Hal Jordan is channelling the power of Fear while Guy Gardner is powered by Rage, but neither of them can stand up to The Guardians infused with all of the powers of the emotional spectrum! While the leaders of the Corps try to battle their way out of The Book of Black, Jordan and Gardner find themselves at the evil Krona's will, and soon to be hyper evolved into the new guardians of the universe.

Written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Doug Mahnke, the continuation of the Green Lantern event "War of the Green Lanterns" hits its 7th installment with another large twist. Krona doesn't just want to control all of the elemental powers in the spectrum, he wants to replace those who control them. The Earth Lanterns are the most versed in the realm of controlling and embracing emotion, so it would make sense for him to target Jordan, Gardner, Stewart, and Rayner as his right hand men.

This issue was mainly a taste of things to come, raising the stakes before moving on to a much bigger climatic showdown. It's still a wonderful read, and you get to experience what it's like for Sinestro and the others to be trapped in The Book of Black, which contains all of the prophecies dealing with the different Lantern Corps.

It's also interesting to see Jordan and Gardner embrace their darker sides in order to use their new powers. Jordan has always fought against the fear inside of himself in order to be who he is, and now he's forced to use it as a weapon. Gardner has always been a hot-headed vigilante, and how his rage is all that's keeping him alive. Johns keeps building the Lantern mythology to staggering heights, and it's transformed the series and the characters into a modern science fiction epic.

Detective Comics #877 - Review

The Bat and The Roadrunner


Batman (Dick Grayson) continues his investigation of the killer whale that was left as a calling card in a Gotham City bank's lobby. Inside the whale was the body of the bank owner's friend. The bank owner - Sonia Zucco, who is Tony Zucco's daughter! The same man who killed Dick Grayson's parents years ago. Now as Batman faces off against a new gun smuggler called The Roadrunner, he starts to get a taste for the new criminal element that is filling Gotham on his beat as Batman. When the leads to the perpetrator of the whale incident send him offshore, Batman finds himself up against something a whole lot bigger than a killer whale.

Written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Jock, this issue of Detective Comics gives us another interesting take on Grayson's ascension to Batman. The more Grayson dons the cowl and cape, the more he starts to understand what it's like to fight crime as its biggest fear personified. In this issue particularly he discusses the feeling they get when a member of the Bat Family is trapped or doesn't know how to react to a situation. This level of insight into the minds of our favorite crime fighters is something I wish they would cover more.

The overall story is the second act of a three part arc, so it was mostly building up to the confrontation of Batman and the mysterious villain known as Tiger Shark. This title has continued to have very interesting artwork and plot lines, and this issue is no exception. Snyder and Jock can keep teaming up on Batman stories for as long as they want, just as long as I get to read them.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Hangover Part II - Review

I Feel Like I've Seen This Before . . .


Directed by Todd Philips and starring Bradley Cooper, Zack Galifianakis, and Ed Helms, The Hangover Part II picks up on another forgotten night of bachelorhood as a small celebration for Helms turns into an exact repeat of the "wolf pack's" time in Las Vegas. This time Helms' brother-in-law, Teddy, is the one who goes missing. With only a small clue as to Teddy's condition, and the whole city of Bangkok against them, they boys have another 24 hours to find their missing friend or ruin another wedding day.


If there's one thing that really shows in this movie it's formula. Not the kind you'd feed the famous baby from in the first film, but the kind that takes a template, replaces some nouns, and uses it as a script. The two movies are EXACTLY THE SAME. To the point where half of the dialogue consists of the characters saying "it's just like last time," or "remember when this happened before?" So much of the movie depends on having seen the first one that it's almost more of a nostalgia piece than an actual story.

Putting the characters in another country, I admit, is a good comedic idea. Another American city wouldn't have been enough of an increased sense of urgency to power a sequel. The plot seems to be moved by things that don't have too much to do with Thailand's culture or differences, and it feels like it really could have been anywhere in the world again.


The characters feel phoned-in and not as genuine as in the first movie. Galifianakis is the one who especially acts like he didn't want to be in the film, and knowing his sense of ironic humor of being in roles, it would make sense that he might have done it as an inside joke to himself. You can never really tell with him, he's always a mystery to everyone as to when he's serious or when he's kidding.

To be bluntly honest, I didn't laugh once during the movie. I didn't find any of the jokes hysterical or even chuckle-worthy. That's my personal taste in comedy, but it doesn't ignore the simple cinematic facts that support this movie as a bomb in terms of imagination and production. I've already received angry messages for voicing my opinion on the movie, and I know that America is against me when it comes to my stance. The box office alone will try and tell me that I'm wrong, but I have a feeling that I'm not the only one.

For those that want an exact repeat of the first film this is a golden winner. For those who were looking for something a little more advanced or to be challenged, not so much.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fables: Vol. 1 - Legends in Exile - Review

Who's Afraid of The Big Bad Wolf? Lawbreakers!


A mysterious villain known as The Adversary has plundered all of the kingdoms and realms where the fictional characters of literature have dwelled since they were created. Those few who were lucky enough to escape with their lives moved into New York City into a district they call Fabletown. These "Fables" try to live in secret among the "mundanes," but when Rose Red is brutally murdered with no leads, witnesses, or a body, it's up to Fabletown's sheriff, Bigby "Big Bad" Wolf, to solve the case. With the help of Deputy Mayor Snow White, he'll have to follow the leads and his nose in order to keep this murder case out of the public eye and bring justice to his fellow Fables.

Created and written by Bill Willingham, Fables is an ongoing series published by Vertigo Comics. It's unique and urban fantasy style have made it a juggernaut in the comics community, and it's for good reason. The characters are deep, the dialogue snaps, and the artwork is a wonderful mix of comic book and storybook style. Seeing these characters in a contemporary setting, but still originating from their fairy tale roots, is a delight on every page.

The Big Bad Wolf, or Bigby Wolf as he's now known, is the sheriff and lead detective of Fabletown. Since the Fables have moved to the real world, all previous atrocities and crimes have been wiped clean from their records. Bigby has been considered the most reformed, not slipping once since his move to the world of the mundanes. It's this level of dedication that made Bigby the lead detective of his people. That and his uncanny ability to sniff out leads. He often has ulterior motives when it comes to investigations, but his intents always seem to be in the best interests of everyone else.


Snow White is portrayed as a woman who has been burnt by the royal system and now runs it. Her former Prince Charming, who spends his days as a con-artist, preying on unsuspecting women, cheated on her with her sister Rose Red, and drove her to become the modern woman she is now. As the Deputy Mayor she basically controls all of Fabletown. King Cole, who is acting mayor, is really only a political figure for ceremonies and events. When there's business to be done, it's Ms. White who is at the forefront of the problem. She demands to be let in on the case of her murdered sister, and keeps Bigby on a tight leash.


One of the coolest things about this series is the little cameos from famous characters in fairy tale literature. Characters like Beauty and The Beast, Little Boy Blue, and even one of the Three Little Pigs make for great supporting cast members, but also very hilarious social situations. One of the pigs constantly tries to crash on Bigby's couch, claiming that he owes him for destroying his house and nearly eating him. He's always found sleeping somewhere on someone else's property.

The overall plot is a well crafted detective story, and the added supernatural and larger than life situations leave the possibilities for foul play infinite. Bigby never lets the dramatic value of the story slip, and it shows through Willingham's writing. After reading this first volume I can honestly say that I'm hooked. You can look forward to me reviewing most of this series over the summer.

House of Five Leaves Vol. Three - Review

A Wind of Change


Masa is just starting to find his place in the Five Leaves when one of their allies is kidnapped by a rival craftsman company. Masa takes it upon himself to sneak into their organization as a yojimbo and rescue his crime companion. However, things within the Five Leaves have begun to change dramatically since Masa accepted his fate of working with the kidnapping gang. The member's pasts are catching up with them, for better or for worse, and some of them believe that Masa is at the heart of it. Throw in the return of Masa's kid sister and a police chief who has a very deep interest in the gang, and you've got a recipe for disaster down the road.


Written and illustrated by Natsume Ono, this volume of House of Five Leaves delves more into the pasts of the characters and how they've begun to catch up with them. Masa evolves as a character, taking situations into his own hands and manipulating people, even if it is subtle. We also learn that Yaichi has some very shady business with a large gang, that is also hot on his tail and heading for Edo. All of which is building up to a large boiling climax in the crime underworld.

The only complaint I have about this volume is that there's still no swordplay. There's a practice match between Masa and Yagi, but we don't even get to see that fight. It's still a very interesting manga, but if someone is going to hold a sword throughout an entire story, well, they better damn well use it.

That being said, it's still another wonderful piece of art by Ono.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ready, Set, REBOOT!

Is Hollywood Going Too Far?


The idea of the remake or the reboot in Hollywood is nothing new under the media sun. As long as there have been movies, there have been new adaptations and versions of famous stories and characters. The Maltese Falcon has been made into film adaptations plenty of times before Humphrey Bogart stepped into the role of Sam Spade, but it still sticks out as the definitive version of the story. With comic book movies becoming more and more mainstream, the studios have decided that it’s important to constantly be exposing different audiences to the characters, so reboots have become a standard when it comes to superheroes.

The most obvious one right now is the new take on Marvel Comics' wall-crawler, Spider-Man. Marc Webb, and yes that’s his real last name, is taking the franchise in a new direction with The Amazing Spider-Man, which is actually the name of the ongoing comic book series. The tone of the film seems to be, of course, much darker than the previous. It almost seems like it’s the rule of rebooting. Did the other one not end so well? Make it darker! What does that even mean? Obviously just from the promo images of the movie it’s a tale that’s very shadowy and has that ominous night feel to it, but I think it really means making the story more raw and for adult audiences.

Reboots aren’t always a failure or a bad thing. Without them we would have gotten J.J. Abram’s Star Trek or Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Fresh takes on classic characters are something that people in the world of literature and media do love, whether they like to admit it or not. It’s when rebooting becomes more about selling action figures than story telling that angers fans. My biggest argument for this is that Warner Bros. has stated that it plans to reboot the Batman movie franchise as soon as The Dark Knight Rises is finished being released. They don’t even plan to let it have its time in the world of cinema culture before they shout: “now here’s the story a different way!”

I don’t see how they could take it into another mainstream direction. The Nolan Batman movies all try to be as realistic as possible, straying away from what the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher did, which was trying to make them overly fantastic. Granted that Burton’s version was a little more accepted than Schumacher’s version was, but it still took the concept into the bigger than life context. The only way you could reboot the franchise again would be to make it more like the current Batman comics, which would take too much back story and suspended belief for the audiences that now believe Batman has to be super realistic.

I personally would love to do away with the whole term and just start releasing comic book movies as their own separate entities. Who says that you can’t have two different styled Batman movies come out in the same year? One could be the more PG-13 version and the other could be the R version where it borrows more from the ongoing Detective Comics title. No one is really to blame for this not happening. It’s more like the two people who both want to date each other, but don’t have the stones to do anything about it. Instead of finding out something wonderful would have happened if one of them had spoken up, they go their whole lives never knowing. It’s like that with Hollywood and the true audience for these films – comic book readers. Then again, Hollywood listened to the fans last time and Venom was forced into the third act of Spider-Man 3, and we all know what that led to . . . Reboot!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pride of Baghdad - Review

Let Freedom Roar


Based on a true story revolving around a group of lions that escaped from the Baghdad Zoo during an American Bombing, Pride of Baghdad follows Zill, Noor, Safa, and little Ali as they find freedom for the first time in ages in a world torn by a war fought by man. If they’re to survive in the wild, they’ll have to abandon their daily meals and fresh water for dangerous game and blood soaked water. It’s not so much a look at survival as it is the cost and effects of freedom. As they traverse the city of Baghdad the lions are tested to their limits, and then some, encountering other dangerous creatures and the modern weapons of war.


Written by Brian K. Vaughan, drawn by Niko Henrichon, and published by VERTIGO, Pride of Baghdad is a jaw-dropping look at the war being fought overseas by America in the 21st century. The characters are strong, the artwork and color palette is breathtaking, and the allegories and conflicts are page turning to say the least. I finished the book in a single sitting and found myself wanting more as the cover folded on the trade paper back. Vaughan is known for creating strong and memorable characters, and this is no exception.


One of the things that I thought was very interesting was the relationships between the different types of animals in the zoo. Each is given their own personalities, culture, and seemingly religion to make them similar to the pride of lions, but on their own completely different groups of “people.”


If I could sum this up for someone looking to read this graphic novel, I’d tell them that it was The Lion King for adults. Not that the Disney film doesn’t cover some very real tragedies, it just doesn’t push the envelope like Vaughan’s Pride of Baghdad does.

Gente: Vol. 1 - Review

THE BESPECTACLED WAITERS RETURN!


In what I think is my fist encounter with a prequel to a drama and slice of life story, Gente is the origins of the cast of Ristorante Paradisio, both written and drawn by the master of manga, Natsume Ono. This collection of manga is published by Viz Media's Signature Ikki line of books, and revisits the waiters and characters you fell in love with in the first book, some more literally than others. They're are given a more distinct motivation and background, as well as proper introductions that the first book glanced over. An origin story for waiters . . . Who would have thought that would be an incredible read?

When Lorenzo decides to open a restaurant with his new wife Olga, he decides to make it a place where distinguished gentlemen serve their customers and where glasses are mandatory. Thus, Casetta dell'Orso is born! And that's really the in-depth plot. The chapters all focus on the different waiters and their personalities, as well as people that they encounter in their daily lives. It's by no means an action title, but that's not the sort of thing that Ono does with her work.

In the slice of life realm of comics, no one is really pulling it off better than Ono right now. I could read her books continuously and never get bored. She crafts a very realistic world with very fleshed-out characters and distinct traits that makes every page and event genuine. I never thought you could successfully make a franchise out of a drama, but Ono has gone and proved me wrong.

I believe there are 3 volumes currently released, and I'm unsure as to whether it ends there. I just know that I have to come to terms with the fact that one of my favorite comics right now is about Italian waiters in a restaurant aimed to lure in women who love men in glasses. . . Yep, I'm more than okay with it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Daytripper - Review

Life As You Like It


Brás de Oliva Domingos is an obituary writer living in South America and spends his days writing about the deaths of people who have lived extraordinary lives. He finds himself on a journey, exploring all of the possible deaths he could have had at all of the most pivotal times in his life. What he's looking for is an ending. An ending for himself. The content for his own obituary when the time comes. What he finds is that death isn't about dying, it's about living up to that moment.

Originally published by VERTIGO in ten separate issues, Daytripper is a journey through one man's many lives, over many years, and the many ways that it could have ended. The comic was written and drawn by twin brothers Fabio Moon and Gabriel Bà, who are well known for their strange slice of life stories. The atmosphere in the graphic novel feels more like a well directed film than a comic book, but that isn't a bad thing at all. The pacing and the writing sucks you into the realistic atmosphere, while the strange and fantasy elements bring you deeper into the life of Domingos' friends, family, and he himself.

I was awestruck at the end of the graphic novel, and even felt my eyes well up a bit. It does deal with death by the boatloads, but it also reflects on the moments in life we take for granted at all stages through childhood to adulthood. First loves, first tragedies, and life-altering realizations all soak out through the panels and into the reader. It's the perfect example of how this genre was born to be displayed on pages and not just on silver screens.

VERTIGO has yet to disappoint me with a title, and I'm willing to keep taking that challenge until it does. As for twins Moon and Bà, I can't wait to see what they cook up next.

Blue Mountain State: Season One - Review

Football For Comedy Nerds



Alex Moran (Darin Brooks) has the perfect plan to live the ultimate college life -- be Blue Mountain State's 2nd string quarterback and breathe in all the glory with little or no effort. He and his best friend Sammy (Chris Romano) are in for the kind of college experience that only gets written about in raunchy movies, that is until team captain Thad Castle (Alan Ritchson) goes about making their lives a living hell. Between babes, booze, and ball games, Alex will have to fight to maintain his 2nd string spot without losing his status or impressing the coach to the point of becoming 1st string and killing his dreams of the rock star lifestyle.

Written and created by Chris Romano and Eric Falconer, this series is essentially the college football movie turned one-camera sitcom. It isn't a bad thing at all, as the cast proves that the overly sexed-up comedy situations that make movies like American Pie so funny and successful can be done just as well on the small screen. The very strange thing about the series is that there's very little football in the actual show. We often see Alex practicing, but I can't remember ever seeing an actual game. This adds more to the fact that it's about the characters when they're not on the field, and the insane hijinks that can go on when your teammates are idiots or just plain insane.

Darin Brooks does a wonderful job as Alex, and the character's drive to only be 2nd best plays well against the usual stereotype of the quarterback who wants to be top dog. The person who really steals the show is Alan Ritchson, whose antics as the insane team captain Thad make the show laugh out loud funny. Whenever Thad walks on screen I know I'm going to get a deep gut laugh going within seconds.

Another surprising aspect of this show is that it's not geared toward football players only. It rings true as a sex-romp or brash comedy for people of all tastes. The fact that it's willing to just be what it is and be funny is enough to keep people watching. It's not so much about football as it is about trying to make the best out of the first four years after high school.

I recommend this show to anyone who loves football movies, but more to people who love just unabridged and raunchy comedy. It's definitely worth a look, and I believe the show is in its 3rd season currently. This proves that Spike TV can still put out quality shows, as opposed to some of the flops of the past few television seasons.

Batman & Robin #23 - Review

The Red Hood Runs With Blood


Before I even start to setup this issue and review it, I think this is one of my favorite comic book covers in the past two years. The work that Guillem March has done needs to be recognized and commended. This is one of those covers that I'd love to have as a poster in my house. The use of the bright golden background paired with The Red Hood, Batman, and Robin just pops in that way that only comic books can.

That being said, lets get on to the review!

When notorious vigilante/murderer Jason Todd AKA The Red Hood wants to be transfered from Arkham Asylum to the general correctional facility, Bruce Wayne has his doubts about his intentions. Todd has passed all of his psych exams, but it's his ruthless love for murdering criminals that makes him a real threat. Unfortunately, it's not up to Bruce, Dick Grayson, or Damian Wayne wether or not Todd stays in Arkham with all of the other psychopaths. In that setting he can't get his hands on any other criminals, and as soon as he moves to the general population, the body bags start stacking.

Written by Judd Winick and drawn by Guillem March and Andrei Bressan, issue #23 of Batman & Robin brings The Red Hood back into the spotlight of the Bat-Family's problems. The character of Jason Todd has really grown over the years, and you can feel it inside of his monologues and expressions. Once the devil-may-care Robin that replaced Dick Grayson when he became Nightwing, this attitude-ridden kid has become one of the most dangerous former allies Batman has ever had. Now that Grayson is acting Batman of Gotham, he has to face his former replacement in the dark streets of the city's underworld.

Fans got a wonderful dose of Todd as The Red Hood in the DC Universe film Batman: Under The Red Hood, and this new incarnation of him in the comics is really building up his popularity. He's a very interesting villain, because he's seen the world from the point of view of the citizen, the hero, and the villain.

If you're looking for an intriguing take on what happens when one of Wayne's partners goes bad, this is the series you should be reading right now.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

First Look at Bane from "The Dark Knight Rises"

Tom Hardy as Bane


This is the first officially released picture of Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, which also starts off it's hugely anticipated viral campaign. When The Dark Knight was being promoted, people saw bat signals, joker cakes, and trashed Dent posters everywhere.

I wonder what's up their sleeves this time . . . Venom brand performance enhancing energy drinks?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wednesday Attack Stack! 5/18/2011

The Wednesday Attack Stack Begins!


EXPLANATION

Since I've been getting swamped with writing, the podcast, and the possibility of being part of a seriously exciting production company, I've been a little lacking on the reviews. The big problem is that I've started getting big stacks of comics with little or no time to review them. Or, when I do, they overwhelm me by how many there are.

So I've devised a solution!

When I get a huge stack, most likely on Wednesdays because that's when comics are released, I'm going to review the whole stack at the same time. I'll just have the "Wednesday Attack Stack" instead of a ton of updates in one day. That way I can review more TV shows and movies too.

Here goes nothing!

Soldier Zero #8

Soldier Zero AKA James Trautmann is losing control of his parasite armor and is being hunted by government agents whose sole purpose is to kill creatures and weapons like Soldier Zero on sight. In the process they've kidnapped an entire hospital full of civilians, putting their lives in danger over the mission they've been given. Trautmann's friends App and Kelsey attempt to help him escape from the clutches of his heavily armed pursuers. Can Trautmann regain control of Soldier Zero and avoid the armor from swallowing his mind and body? Or will innocents die for the sake of the greater good?

Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, drawn by Javier Pina, and published by BOOM! Studios, this issue of Soldier Zero was the end of an arc I hadn't started. I missed a few issues in the middle, but it was well written to the point where I understood exactly what was going on as soon as I got a few pages in. If there's one thing that's great about titles like Soldier Zero on BOOM! Studio's roster, it's that they have great creative teams behind them that make the characters that are new to the world of comics friendly to new readers.

James Trautmann's character is really progressing nicely, and the fact that he's a wounded soldier who is getting his second chance at doing something wonderful with his life plays well with the burden of the symbiotic armor. The only downfall to this new title is something that isn't even it's fault -- MARVEL is trying to do the same thing with Venom. Soldier Zero started long before the new take on Spider-Man's dark counterpart, but since both characters were birthed somewhat through Stan Lee, it can be forgiven.

I still feel that characters like James Trautmann are going to have a high place in post-modern mythology someday, through their strong story lines and complex characters.

Definitely a title to start reading if you love science fiction/military stories.

DMZ: FREE STATES RISING #65

The U.S. Military has taken back nearly 75% of Manhattan, the Free States are looking like they might be all but defeated, and the scapegoat for the United States is all set to be put to death for the world to see America end it's second Civil War. But Matthew Roth has the only piece of evidence that would reveal the truth about a nuclear device detonated on American soil. A nuke that was blamed on the Free States and political figure Parco Delgado. But in reality, was set off by the U.S. government. Roth has to decide as a photojournalist if it's more ethical to end the war, or give the American people the truth about the war that's been fought on their soil for nearly a decade.

Written by Brian Wood, drawn by Riccardo Burchielli, and published by VERTIGO, this issue of DMZ was a gripping struggle with truth and war when it comes to the press. Roth is a man who wants to fight for Manhattan and nothing else. He wants to see the city go back to the majesty it once was, and both sides of the opposition seem to want to keep that from happening for their own personal agendas. The moral choice of ending the war to save lives and telling the truth about what's been going on under everyone's noses is something heavy to bare when a nuclear explosion is the cause of the debate.

Wood has been crafting a realistic and hauntingly powerful series about what it would be like if America went to war with itself again, and it's something that really moves me as a reader. More people should put out comics like this, or at least take a big lesson from someone who has something to say on the genre and the current state of our country and the horrible paths it could take. A+ all around.

The Amazing Spider-Man #661

When The Avengers Academy needs a substitute teacher, Spider-Man is considered the best man for the job. The group of super-powered youths who had once been corrupted by Norman Osborne desperately need guidance, and Peter Parker is a hero who has seen the good and bad sides of every superhero situation. The only problem is that he didn't count on his class getting ransacked by Psycho-Man, who quickly plots to influence the Avengers Academy into brutally killing their teacher and each other.

Written by Christos Gage and drawn by Reilly Brown, this issue of The Amazing Spider-Man takes a look at how the conventions of the superhero have changed over the years and that the secret identity and being attacked during dates phase of comic books is on its way out. Spider-Man is a classic hero and has progressed with the times, but he still represents all of the old methods of superhuman literature. These young kids are all in the public eye, and many of them don't have secret identities or the worry of enemies finding out who their loved ones are. With The Avengers money and power behind them, they can live as metahumans in any way the see fit.

It's the juxtaposition of these new age heroes with a classic hard-hitter like Spider-Man that makes the superhero genre still worth reading today. I'm glad that Gage was willing to explore the new social rules of being a costumed crime fighter, and how, in the information age, it's harder to live under a blanket of secrecy.

This issue does feel more like a one shot story than part of an ongoing series, but I'm glad they explored these themes in one of MARVEL's biggest titles.

The Unwritten #25

Tom Taylor has just escaped the jaws of The Leviathan, a creature made of the literary subconcious of the world, when his pals Hexam and Richie locate precious journals that belonged to his father, Wislon Taylor. These journals, which are up for auction in New York City, could hold more information about the dark and magical forces that are trying to destroy Tom Taylor and mold the world for evil purposes. With Tom's past catching up with him and a new webpage to try and gain more power through the people who loved his father and the Tommy Taylor books, his only hope is to break in and steal the journals before they go on auction and are put into dangerous hands.

Written by Mike Carey and drawn by Peter Gross, this issue of The Unwritten is a great addition to the ongoing story. The pacing is fluid, the artwork is bright, vivid, and striking, and the characters really come through in their actions and voices. The thought of making literature the prime plot instigator in an ongoing comic book title sounds cheesy, but this series is proof that it can be used to craft an incredible epic that can combine any work of fiction throughout history.

Whenever I recommend comic book titles that stray away from the superhero genre, The Unwritten is always one of the first titles that I suggest. It's a breath of fresh air in an over-saturated market, and every issue makes me want to rush out and get another one. Fans of fiction, fantasy, and comics can rejoice in the fact that VERTIGO has given them another ongoing title that pushes the boundaries of conventional comic book storytelling.

Fables #99

Maddy spies on Mister Dark as his plans to erect a sinister tower and build a legion of Withers (zombified people who have had some strange connection with the Fables) continues. The North Wind arrives to plead with Mister Dark to stop what he's doing or face a duel with a powerful witch that could end in mass catastrophe. What is the importance of these dead people who have encountered Fables in their past lives? What sinister plan does the building and army of Withers hold? And can Mister Dark really be defeated in an all out duel?

Written by Bill Willingham, drawn by Inaki Miranda, and published by VERTIGO, this issue of Fables felt a little out of place for me. I admit, it was the first one I had ever read, but it has captivated my attention. I'm avidly awaiting an ordered copy of the first trade paperback, and I'm trying to learn as much about the series as possible. The artwork, tone, and pace of the story felt like a huge event as I read it. It was almost like watching a cinematic masterpiece on a paneled page.

I realize that this isn't the latest issue of Fables, but it was the only issue my local comic book store had on the rack. I'm eager to catch up and immerse myself in a series that people have been talking about for years.

Back to this issue of the series, which was strong enough to make me want to invest my time and money into the entire ongoing title. Willingham obviously has a deep love of comics and popular fables, and blends the two together so well you would have sworn they were originally comic book characters.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Doctor Who #4 - Review

The Doctor Doesn't Know Jack


When The Doctor, Rory, and Amy investigate the murders caused by Jack The Ripper, the Tardis Team discovers that there's a whole lot more going on during the famous slasher's killings than originally thought. Amy's alter-ego from the past is added to the list of victims, and it's up to The Doctor and Rory to prevent that from happening. But is Jack The Ripper, a man without humanity and the world's most notorious serial killer, even human at all?

Written by Tony Lee, drawn by Tim Hamilton, and published by IDW, this comic book series of Doctor Who follows the adventures of Matt Smith's Doctor and runs along with the ongoing television series. The characters portrayed in the book are very close to their TV counterparts, and the art has a very stylistic quality that sets it apart from the normal and overly action-based look of other comics.

The pacing of the story and the plot feels very much like an episode of Doctor Who, which was my main concern going into the series. Basing something off a TV show that's currently running is always a gamble, but luckily the Who-niverse is wide enough to have side stories going on with the main characters involved.

Lee takes a great moment in history and is able to add the signature Doctor twist that makes the period piece stories such a delight to read. I would even go as far to say that I'd be interested in seeing Lee write an actual episode or special for the TV series, but sadly that isn't up to me.

If you're a big fan of the TV show, it can only do you good to get more doses of The Doctor, Rory, and Amy in this ongoing series from IDW.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Unwritten #23 - Review

A Whale By the Tale


When Tom Taylor and a group of fictional characters get swallowed by a whale, it's up to Tom to figure out the mystery of why they can't escape. All of the fictional characters are known in their stories for being swallowed by a whale, but none of their elaborate plans from the stories are working. Tom starts to realize that the whale isn't what it seems, and if he's going to find the meaning behind it, it's going to take a whole lot more than simple literary know-how to escape.

Written by Mike Carey and drawn by Peter Gross, this issue in the strange and wonderful The Unwritten series takes a look at the power of literature and its characters. Tom has the benefit of being both a real person and a fictional icon, so he can step outside of the box and look at the two worlds objectively. It really delves deep into the power of the fans and the people who love to read the great epic stories of our time.

The plot is pretty straightforward, but the reveal at the end is well worth the read. Plus, the addition of characters like Pinocchio, Baron Von Munchausen, and Sinbad makes the cast a real delight to see in action. The only drawback would be that if you haven't been following along, you might be a little lost. But that's only because it's a series that prides itself on being one central story, which, in this age of comics, is a very powerful story tool that often gets overlooked.

It's one of my favorite titles being published right now, and if you're a fan of literature and comics, it's a no brainer for you to pick up and start reading.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

X-Men #10 - Review

The X-Men Get Scaly


Concluding the "To Serve and Protect" 4 issue arc, the X-Men and Spider-Man take on Dark Beast's reptilian hordes, only to be transformed into lizards themselves! With only Spider-Man and Emma Frost still in human form, can the two of them put their grievances aside and save the kidnapped children, their teammates, and anyone who might be a future pet of Dark Beast?

This issue, which was written by Victor Gischler and drawn by Chris Bachalo and Paco Medina, wasn't as exciting as the last few issues were. It wasn't bad, but it focused more on the banter and unusual teaming of Spider-Man and Emma Frost. The dynamic between the two of them, who are very different characters in the MARVEL Universe, was fun to see, but felt like it was replacing more time for story and development.

It was fun to see lizard versions of the X-Men, still with all their own powers, hunt down and tango with Spidey. Especially the satisfaction Spider-Man gets from delivering a hit right to Wolverine's face.

Overall it was a good story-arc. I love stories about the lizard, and I felt like it was a great situation for a crossover with Spider-Man and the X-Men. It just kind of lost momentum when there was more time spent crawling through disgusting sewer pipes and making jokes than actually trying to thwart the villain and reveal more motivation.

That being said, this is still one of the best MARVEL titles available right now.

Friday, May 6, 2011

FLCL (Fooly Cooly) Blu-Ray - Review

Anime as a Work of Allegorical Art




When 12-year-old Naota is struck on the head by a crazed girl named Haruko on a yellow moped with a bass guitar, his strange town where nothing happens gets transformed into a hotbed of galactic battles when giant robotic monsters start escaping from his skull. Haruko, a member of the Galactic Space Police Brotherhood, is looking for the Space Pirate named Atomsk, who was abducted by the Medical Mechanica corporation, who build the killer robots that attack Naota's hometown. Can Naota find his place in the world, sort out all of the girls in his life, and defeat the monsters that threaten to destroy his sleepy city? He'll have to master the on the fly animation changes, his brother's crazy ex-girlfriend, and a TV-headed robot named Canti that he can pilot after he's been swallowed if he wants to sort out his existence and save the universe.


I was first introduced to FLCL when I was just graduating high school and I was more confused than anything else. I kept trying to see it as a straight narrative like so many other anime series that I'd seen before it. I wasn't able to appreciate that the entire series was an allegory for growing up and dealing with the problems of being a young person without a place in the world. Now that I've re-watched it, and luckily in gorgeous 1080P format, I can appreciate the unique storytelling and complex characters that are represented in one of the most visually stunning pieces of animation I've ever seen.

Naota is living in the shadow of his older brother, Tasuku, who has gone to America to be a professional baseball player. Naota isn't interested in baseball, and finds himself constantly being compared to his brother by his family, peers, and his brother's ex-girlfriend, Mamimi, who dumps her affection on Naota since his brother isn't around. All he wants is for people to respect him and leave him alone, but he's constantly hassled by his father and the girls in his life. When he meets Haruko, he can't stand having her insane lifestyle and personality interfering with his quiet existence. It also doesn't help that every time she hits him with her revved up base guitar a killer robot escapes from his forehead.


The fight scenes are one of the most beautiful things I've seen in any medium. The pairing of a soundtrack by J-Rock band The Pillows gives it a distinct rock and roll feel that makes you want to pick up a guitar and wail on bad robots. The soundtrack is just as good as the animation, and I couldn't imagine any other band pulling it off.

The character designs of the robots and monsters are some of the more inventive of modern anime. Though the people are depicted as very realistic, the robots are very bright and cartoonish, giving it a good offset to the humans and providing that level of science fiction fairy tale that the show beams with.


The only drawback is that it's very confusing and very in your face for viewers. I recommend watching it a few times in order to get a deeper understanding of the metaphors for growing up, as well as just enjoying the animation and music.

That being said, something that's worth watching again and again for literary value is worth it in and of itself. The fact that it's one of the most highly regarded anime series with a kick ass soundtrack and genuinely funny science fiction comedy is a huge bonus.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Detective Comics #876 - Review

A Whale of a Tale for Batman


How much weirder could things in Gotham City get? Does a large, dead killer whale in the lobby of a bank satisfy you? In all of his time as Batman, Dick Grayson hasn't found a case this strange. Nothing stolen, nothing damaged, just a giant dead whale inside of a completely clean bank. The bank's owner, however, is the daughter of Tony Zucco, the man who killed Dick Grayson's parents. She appears to be an upstanding citizen, but Dick is weary to keep his eye on her. When he discovers that someone was fed to the whale alive, he traces the victim back to a car and arms dealer in Gotham, but finds more than he's bargaining for on the dealer's lot.

Written by Scott Synder and drawn by Jock, this issue of Detective Comics was another great addition to a wonderful ongoing series. Dick Grayson's Batman is getting his own cast of villains, while still battling all of the classic ones that Bruce Wayne has left in his wake. The inclusion of more detective work and more complex plots with criminal profiling feels like the type of Batman story that people often forget -- an authentic one.

The thing that this series does differently than the current films is that it portrays Batman in a crime noir setting and tone. The tone of the films is more of a crime-fighting ninja, where the Detective Comics series spends more time in the shadows and with the minds of the characters. The inclusion of a character who is the offspring of the man responsible for turning Dick Grayson into Robin, then Nightwing, and finally Batman, is a bold and exciting move for the story.

Thumbs up all around.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

DMZ #63 - Review

Whose War Is It Anyway?


Written by Brian Wood, drawn by Ricardo Burcheielli, and published by VERTIGO, DMZ issue #63 questions the very foundations that the war being fought in New York City by the U.S. Military and the Free States Armies (FSA) is based upon. When photographer Matty Roth is given the information that could turn the media's take on the war into a whole new direction, he must struggle with whom to trust and what side he'll take -- his country's, or his city's?

I've become a big fan of Brian Wood, and I admit I hadn't read an issue of DMZ until now, but I'd love to read more. For those that don't know, this series is based on a fictional second civil war in America, where the fighting is set in New York City, done amongst the U.S. Forces, the FSA, and various sectioned groups around the city. The whole series has a very Children of Men feel to it while still doing it's own thing as a narrative.

The characters, even though I've only read one issue, seem well developed and fleshed out. The art style has an older feel to it, giving it the quality of old movies like Escape from New York and Mad Max.

This issue does alot to question the way that governments and organizations fight wars, and how the spin in the media is really how a war is fought. The history books are written through the headlines, and the headlines can be rewritten.

I recommend this series to anyone who loves war dramas, realistic science fiction, or enjoys games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 where the action takes place on American soil. It's interesting to think that something like this could actually happen, and how it would affect our major cities and political groups.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Doctor Who: Series 6 - Day of the Moon - Review

Silence Will Fall


In the second episode of the 6th series of Doctor Who we jump to three months after The Doctor, Rory, Amy, River, and FBI Agent Canton run into The Silence, a group of aliens that you forget about once you lose eye contact with them. The only way the group can remember that they've seen the creatures is by making tick marks on their skin with markers. The Silence haven't just invaded, they've taken over, and it was a long time ago. They have a plan for humanity, and have been pushing it in the direction that they want it to go for centuries, using hypnotic suggestion to drive human behavior. Stranger still, who is the little girl in the astronaut suit? Who was the scientist who opened the wall and looked at Amy Pond? And the biggest question of all -- Why did the little girl regenerate at the end?!

If there's one thing that this new series is doing, it's keeping people on the edge of their seats. This episode played more like a science fiction horror film and less like an adventure show. But that's fine, it's what Doctor Who does best, switching genres on the fly. The build of up the series mythology is taking on whole new levels as the strange little girl, who may or may not be Amy Pond's daughter, reveals that she has Time Lord DNA at the end of the episode. That, I admit, was one of the biggest jaw drops I've had in awhile.


If there's one relationship that's developing and really bringing the show together, it's The Doctor and River Song. They have a very Batman and Catwoman thing going on and it's building wonderful flirt situations that build tension between them. She's also the only ass-kicker on the show who isn't afraid to get her hands dirty. It helps to have someone on the Who Team that isn't afraid to fight back against the darkness that threatens the universe.

The preview for the next episode was of a pirate ship and a siren-like mermaid, so I'm guessing we won't be coming back to the plot of the little girl for awhile. But hey, knowing this new series, I'm sure it's connected somehow.

I'd also like to point out that the ratings for the show have been through the roof on BBC America. Congrats Moffat, you're a hit over here too!