Thursday, February 28, 2008

New # 1's (and a #9)

Hey there, got a big pile o' comics at the shop last night, mostly due to me forgetting to pick up a couple of books for the last month or so, but what the heck. Anyway, just some quick reviews of two books that started (or re-started) this week and a look at the (apparent) end of the first arc of ASBAR.

Criminal #1

After delivering two excellent arcs of this series, writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips closed up shop for a few months to re-tool the book into a slightly different form. Packing in a few more story pages and some extra back-matter, their crime series revolving around the dirty dealing in an unnamed city in the US returns with a done-in-one tale about Clevon, the bartender at the Undertow, the bar where most of the characters in these books tend to hang out. Truth be told, it's a fairly standard noir tale, but then again, all of them are, but it is done very well. I don't want to talk to much about the plot, since the joy of this book is in the reading. Suffice to say, if you like crime stories, you'll like this book.

A note on the format, in the back, Brubaker notes that they will be featuring articles in the back that will not be reprinted in the trade collections and highlights that this is a reward for the people who buy the monthly format. In this he refers to the comic as a "crime magazine" and that's what Criminal feels like. Not a comic, but an old-school pulp magazine that just happens to feature illustrated tales instead of prose ones.


Jeff Smith, writer-artist of Bone and Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil returns with his first creator-owned work since Bone ended years ago and it starts off with a bit of a fizzle, for me at least. The plot of the book is that our "hero" is an thief that steals artworks by transporting himself to alternate Earths and takes their stuff. Thusly, he's not hunted by the authorities on his own Earth. The only problem is that A. the process for passing between worlds is painful and imperfect and he ends up on the wrong Earth and B. while the police aren't looking for him, someone (thing?) else certainly is. The problem of the book, is that most of the details of the plot I just explained to you are not in the book itself, but from an interview that I had read with Jeff Smith when the book was announced. Coming into this book cold, it would be easy to get confused about both what was going on and why you would want to bother finding out. This is not to say I'm against using a mystery as a hook, but you've got to give a little at the outset to get your reader involved. You know how in every episode of Lost, there's some kind of reveal at the end to keep you hooked? Imagine an episode of Lost without that, just a building mystery with no, however minor, payoff? Mind you, this is only the first issue, but it frustrated me a great deal simply because I'm a huge fan of Smith's previous work and I know he's an excellent story-teller. I'll give this series one more issue before I decide to wait for the first trade for my final verdict.

All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder #9

So the first arc comes to a close...and this issue pretty much sums up the series, it's funny, cringe-inducingly violent and oddly-poignant. While I'm still convinced that Frank Miller is writing this series as a giant "fuck you" to DC Comics, I think he may actually, you know, have a point here instead of just writing over-the-top situations for Batman to growl his way through. Oops, I'm sorry, that's The Goddamn Batman. In this issue TGD Batman had a conversation with Green Lantern and comes up with a clever (and hilarious) way to bring them down to the same level. The first ten pages of this book are laugh-out-loud, until things go south for everyone involved. I won't ruin the details, but suffice to say, this is not a "nice" book. Anyway, everyone pretty much knows what they're getting into with this book and I haven't decided yet whether I like this book as a satire of Batman or as a straight-forward Batman book. I may try to go more in depth on this one once the collection hits.

Anyway, that's the big stuff I got this week, a few quick bullets on other things I got:
  • Dan Dare continues to be a very good little sci-fi series from Garth Ennis.
  • Marvel's revivial of Damage Conttrol is a lot of fun, but I'm really disappointed that there's only 3 issues to the series. Hopefully the sales will shake the tree for at least a collection fo the old stuff.
  • Captain America continues to be excellent, but I'm really hoping that the build-up they've been doing for the last two years get s a realease soon, because it's been a while. I'm also hoping that Skrulls do not appear in the plot-line of this book, but I know my hopes will probably be dashed.

Anyway, that's what I got, talk to you soon.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Thoughts on the Oscars - 2008

Well, since I haven't posted in a week, I figured I'd jot down some quick thoughts on the Oscars, and the ONE nominated movie I actually saw - Juno.

Juno was good, but not much more than that, certainly not a life changing experience as many have seemed to want to elevate it to. It's joined Lost in Translation and Little Miss Sunshine as being the indie-movie-that's-good-but-ultimately-is-hated-due-to-the-hype for this year. It doesn't help that almost all of the other nominees are indies as well. You can almost feel the coming animosity for Diablo Cody's next movie. If it doesn't literally give critics orgasms in their seats, she'll be forever labelled as a one-trick-former-stripper.

The biggest complaint about the movie is that, "no real teenager talks the way Juno does." Well shit, as a friend (who is a high school teacher) and I agreed last night. If you really made a movie featuring "real high schooler" dialogue, you'd want to shoot yourself in the head, cause they talk like morons. Movies aren't real, all they do is give you the illusion of realism, now if they can't get you to suspend your disbelief, that may either be the movie's fault or yours. There was a similar argument made by some returning Iraq War Vets about how a lot of the movies being made about the current war feature Soldiers either doing horrible things in Iraq, or having trouble adjusting to returning home. They argue that this is simply not the case the majority of the people who saw action over there. That's all well and good, but no one's going to go see a movie about a guy (or gal) who goes over there, does their duty and comes home and goes back to normal. Much in the same way I don't want to see a cop movie that focuses on the mundanity that is normal cop-life. Real life is dramatic, but not movie-dramatic. I don't understand why a lot of people can't get past that.

Anyway, on to my Oscar picks:

Best Picture: No Country For Old Men - with no clear favorite this year, I think this could be the Coen Brother's year to take a victory lap and get a "career" Oscar. Not that A) from all accounts this pic doesn't deserve it on its own merits and B) they don't deserve a "career" Oscar anyway.

Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis - DDL is like the late-90's/early-00's Atlanta Braves of Best Actor Nominees, I always pick him because odds are that he's gonna win the NL East.

Actress: Julie Christie - Just a hunch.

Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem - Always go for the guy who was a really cool villain, unless one of the Noms is a comedy.

Supporting Actress: Tilda Swinton - Apparently she sweat a lot in this role. I guess I'll find out if it ever comes off "very long wait" on my Netflix queue.

Director: Joel & Ethan Cohen - Continuing the victory lap.

Adapted Screenplay: P.T. Anderson - To make up for not giving him Director, he gets this.

Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody - Cause everyone will want her to say something outrageous on stage. Please note, post this evening there will be an incredible back-lash against her.

Animated Film: Ratatouille - Simply cause this was the best movie I saw in 2007. I wouldn't mind if Persepolis won, since the book was so good. Too bad it didn't play in the burb's.

That's all I got time for. Oh yeah, I figure Transformers will sweep the effects categories since it looks to be the only bog explosion movie out there this year, and Michael Bay likes the explosions:

Anyhoo, enjoy the Oscars.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

It Came From.......The Sick Bed

Well, if you're not aware, being sick sucks. That said, at least I didn't have it as bad as Kevin. Luckily, my new Doctor diagnosed me with strep pretty fast and was able to give me some antibiotics to knock that shit out (along with Robitussin with Codeine, which was disappointing. I expected to see some cool swirly colors at least). Fortuatnately, I did get to expereience some truly epic fever-dreams on Tuesday night and get to watch the entirity of the Clemens Hearings directly from my sick bed. I was also able to stagger to the shop on Wednesday, cause let's face it, if you're stuck in bed, there's nothing better than a pile of fresh comics at your side. It lets you harken back to the grade-school-days when being sick was something to strive for.

Anway, here are some dis-jointed thoughts on the weeks events, I'll try not to refer to things that may have happened only in my aforementioned epic dreams.

The Clemens Hearings
- OK, first things first, this was a tremendous waste of time. But come on, that's what Congress does, waste time. At least this week it was on something interesting. I don't like Roger Clemens, and I've never doubted that he used PED's, but still, so did most likely 50% of the rest of the major leagues and we all need to get over that fact. We're never going to know everyone who did, so either give up on that era or accept it as it is. I don't think Roger Clemens got any more of a boost from HGH than Babe Ruth did from not having to bat against an African American pitcher. That said, man, was that an entertaining hearing. I love that Jose Canseco's pool party has now been parsed out (in Congress) about as much as whether there was a second shooter on the grassy knoll. High Comedy.

Final word: to paraprhase Bill Simmons on the subject, if your defense in front of Congress require you to throw:
  1. Your Wife
  2. Your Best Friend
  3. Your Best Friend's Wife
  4. Your Former Employee
  5. Your Former Employer (Bud Selig)
  6. Your Union
  7. And (as a matter of course) The Media
....under the bus, you may want to reexamine whether or not you're an asshole.

The Indiana Jones Trailer
- This was surprisingly not bad. Granted, the thing that most worries me is the need to add some "new hotness" in the form of Shia LeBeouf, smacks of Cousin Oliver. Regardless, they seem to be ackowleding that, yes, Harrison Ford is old, but shit, if Sean Connery can kick ass in his 80's, Indy can certainly do so into his 60's. Granted, my hopes have remained high for this flick simply because of Spielberg. In the last few years he's made some fantastic movies (Minority Report, Munich, Catch Me If You Can) and even his mis-steps (War of the Worlds, A.I.) were interesting and by no means bad. He's definitely nowhere near as out of touch as Lucas is.

Also, while I was sick, I re-watched Last Crusade for the first time in quite a while and I was struck that there's a lot of bad in that movie. The effects are pretty crap, the story is kinda stupid and it's a little too goofy, but, the thing about it (and the other Indy flicks) is that it moves. You just don't get a chance to stop and say "Hey....that was dumb," cause next thing you know, Indy is stealing horses and bitching to Sallah about camels. So that's the thing, Indy 4 doesn't need to "good", it just needs to be fun.

If I hadn't already talked about it too much on this blog, I'd tell you that I watched most of the first season of 30 Rock on Thursday, and damn if it's not getting close to beating Arrested Development in terms of re-watch-ability.

Read while sick:

Nova Annual #1 - A good issue, but I'm kinda leery of these mid-storyline issues getting re-branded as Annuals (see also: Iron Fist). It used to be that Annuals were held separate from the on-going storylines, though sometimes they would be used to wrap them up. But this annual is, essentially, part 4 in a 6 part arc, so it's kind of odd that it's an Annual. Sure, it's longer than an average issue, and it's very new-reader friendly, but still. Call a spade a spade and don't charge me an extra dollar for a regular issue. Still, on its merits, it still a good issue in a very good series.

Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure - Kudos to Marvel for publishing this, a "lost" issue that Jack Kirby drew, but due to deteriorating relationships at Marvel, never saw print, except for panels cut up to be used as flashbacks in a later issue. It's a good, fun late-period Stan N' Jack tale, though it's odd, since Stan Lee only recently scripted this issue, he plants some 21st Century references to cell phones and DSL lines, that just seem so out of place. Also included are Kirby's original pencils, with his notes, which is fascinating for anyone interested in his craft. Also, there's the story from FF #108, which some of the panels were recycled into. Overall, a very interesting package and while something of a curiosity, and interesting glimpse into how a book was put together 40 years ago.

Iron Man: Hypervelocity - Have owned this for a while, but I re-read it while I was cycling through sweating and shivering (I swear to God, I thought I was going thorough The Change). A pretty-much out of continuity tale that feels like it was commissioned so Marvel would have enough done-in-one I.M. trades on the shelves in time for the movie, this book features a self-aware set of Iron Man armor that's been st-up by terrorists to be chased down by S.H.I.E.L.D. This is a fun series that is so over the top, it makes Shoot Em Up look like a think-piece. Adam Warren continues his exploration of Mecha-Life in the Marvel Universe that he had begun in Livewires (a really fun little series) and you can almost hear him cackling with glee at the weapons he invents for S.H.I.E.L.D. to throw at our hero. The art, by Brian Denham, is very good, but in the extras they give you Warren's sketches of issues number one, and it just makes you wish he'd been able to draw the whole thing.

Marvel Adventures: Iron Man Vol. 1 - Apparently, I had Iron Man on the brain while ill, but hey, I don't know why. Anyway, I've had this digest laying around for a month or so and finally got around to reading it and it's pretty great. So far, I've only read the Avengers in Marvel's all-ages Adventures line and that book's been a hoot. Iron Man, though not at the same super-high level, is still very good. Four done-in-one tales that are perfect for kids who are, you know, too young to be going to see the movie when it comes out. I understand the need to make these movies cool for us 20 & 30 -somethings, but hey Hollywood! Can you make a superhero flick I can let my 5-year-old watch? That's right Shazam...I'm looking at you.

Other books read, that were good, but were mid-storyline, thus not much worth reviewing: X-Factor #28 & '76 #2.

Anyway, so that was my week, hope everyone had better health at least, I'm going to try to get a longer post about the one book I picked up this week, but didn't mention later on. Plus, I ordered a bunch of cheap-o CD's on amazon, so hopefully I'll have some music thoughts to shout at you later too.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Camden Fire

Years ago, just after graduating college, I did an internship in London for six months. My favorite day of the week was always Sunday because I would ineveitably begin the day with a tube ride up to Camden market for used clothes, bootleg tapes and cheap vinyl, capped off with a stop at the Hawley Arms for a pint and maybe a "hot dog" on the street.

Well, a good portion of the market (along with the pub) burned yesterday, and it makes me a little down. But, it also brought back memories that I haven't been reminded of in years. So tonight, I'll have to pick up some ale and have a toast to a place that I hope can regain its glory as a really cool place to hang out and shop in.

No real reason for this post, just remembering. Anyway, here's a good lazy Sunday song about the area:

Belle & Sebastian - Morning Crescent