Archive for Comics

Transmissions from the Deep: 001/Holy Reagan’s Raiders

Posted in Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , on 16/03/2017 by Kevin Entrekin

Read: Bill Watterson (A Cartoonist Advice) by Gavin Aung Than.

It is absurd, as I sit here with a fresh cup of cheap coffee and heavy eye lids, to think how many times I’ve regurgitated the paragraphs you are about to read over the history of this website (and maybe more broadly my life). Paragraphs filled with “site updates” and intent of jumping into some unknown abyss of new, to only be ambitions that fade as quick as they came.

How many times have I started one of these articles and stopped after this sentence, for one of my new creations to sit sediment in a draft box before I eventually assisting in their suicide?

This won’t be that.

I’m not going to go over how sorry I am for not posting more frequently or go into depth about this new idea. I am sorry, for you (if you once visited here frequently) and me. I’m working on it.

The thing is, without sounding grandiose or pompous, I believe I am on the verge of where I want to move forward in life. Probably not in a Alan Watts way, but still on the right path. Maybe I’ve realized the folly in thinking that I could gamble away time, thinking that it would somehow guarantee success in chasing “the dreams”. X amount of years at a job will somehow satisfy the American capitalist gods and I’ll be privileged to attempt a dream as an old man. I’m already getting old.

The other humbling realization is that the success of chasing my ambitions is not based on time or money, but pressure and gumption. Maybe with a dash of talent. So it then becomes clear that waiting to fulfill those goals is foolish. Meditating on money and misguided attempts to manage time is distracting from things of real importance. Such as, spending time with friends. And working towards being an independent entity, in life and work. Being generally happy.

In brief, Transmissions from the Deep will (hopefully) become an ongoing series here. It’s a look at the oddities I’ve found while searching through the dusty gems of Comic & Collectibles’ 50c bins. I’ve gone through my long box of long-forgotten issues and picked these three to write about.

***

The Optic Nerve series is a collection of short “slice-of-life” comics. This isn’t my first time reading a book in this series. I was introduced to Adrian Tomine’s work on a whim when I picked up issue 14 because of it’s unusual cover, and enjoyed it very much. So it was nice to come across a handful of the early books in a long box one day.

Issue three starts out with its strongest story, “Dylan & Donovan”. The narrative of the story is told through the inner monologue of Dylan. It details her weekend at a comic con with her troubled twin sister, Donovan, and earnest divorcee dad. It such a personal, teen-angst filled story that you can feel in your soul. You sympathize with most of Dylan’s feelings because you unquestionably had those same feelings and frustrations (or still do). And you feel a little daft when you turn up your nose to some of her whiny complaints, because it is a reminder of when you were the same way.

The other stories in this issue are also enjoyable, but maybe with less impact. “Supermarket” follows a blind man’s shopping excursion and his attempt to befriend a worker there. It’s a story that takes an odd turn in the end, and leave a bitter taste in your mouth. It warrants a second read to pick up subtle details that were possibly missed.

“Hostage Situation” is a three-page account of adolescent punks harassing commuters on a bus. It’s a situation everyone can relate to, and as I’m thinking about it, Maybe from both sides. We’ve all been in an inescapable situation that makes you grind your teeth and an overwhelming burning in your brain. But maybe some can sympathize with the teens. Hollow voices yelling into the abyss, hoping someone hears them. Interesting. I should reread it from that perspective.

The final story is a simpler story called “Unfaded”. It’s simply of a man reminiscing about a time he discovered a secret about his recently deceased grandfather. It’s a story that gives a sensation of familiar. I think it’s feels that way because when someone passes, eventually you’ll think back on that most intimate moment you had with that person.

What interesting, now that some time has passed since reading this book, is how much more interesting the stories are now. Initially, I thought of “Dylan & Donovan” as a stand-out, and everything else as sub-par. But now I feel the need to reread it. I feel like I missed some of the subtle details that Tomine is so good at including in his stories.

Long ago, in the distant time of pubic awakening known as middle school, I found a book at the school library called The Cross & The Switchblade.  I only remembered this fact while frantically thumbing through the latest batch of bargain books at Comics & Collectibles.

I don’t remember much about the novel version. It takes place in New York City and it reminded me of West Side story (minus the love plot and music). But it’s all a true story about David Wilkerson’s crusade to convert youth gangs to Christ. Apparently there was a movie too.

This comic doesn’t offer much in the way of substance. The story is crafted out of a certain section of the novel, but this is where things get odd: It still feels like a lot of details were edited to fit the confines of a single issue, yet at the same time feels like plot elements had to be stretched to meet the required pages of a single issue.

The art itself is strange as well. The scenery of 70’s NYC is meant to evoke the grittiness of life on the streets, yet it comes off as a Disney version of that. Especially when it comes to the characters. Where pastor Wilkerson looks likes a pristine Richie Cunningham clone, A Latina and black child in separate gangs look like a disproportionate and bloated version of the Fat Albert gang.

Is this a cash-grab? I don’t think so. Well, maybe. It comes off as a preview to buy the novel. Or it could just be an evangelical tool. The problem is that it feels rushed and uninspired. This is a stand-alone issue that, if given the time, could have been a polished mini-series for the publisher.

Ever wonder what a comic book produced by Cannon Films would look like? Then look no further than Solson Comics’ Samurai Santa. The cover is simple, with bold red-letter proclaiming SAMURAI SANTA. A singular image of a red/green samurai in santa garb against a black background. And the bold proclamation to have a merry Christmas… OR ELSE! All these things were indicators to me that this will be a ridiculous B-tale extravaganza. But like many titles in Cannon’s history, the cover was more exciting than the product.

In fact there isn’t anything remarkable about Samurai Santa, other than the fact it is the first comic Jim Lee worked on (which is something that I doubt he ever willingly brings up). Well, there is one other thing of interest in this rag: the adverts. Among these are other b-grade quality books, like Amazing Wahzoo and Codename: Ninja. And my personal favorite, Reagan’s Raiders (which I have scanned and included for you to admire).

The story is a fatty, ham-fisted sucker punch about the lost meaning of X-Mas. A department store Santa gets too sauced before his shift and can’t do his dehumanizing job. Running low on options, Generic boss man decides to ask Sam to take up the role, aka “that new guy running the Jap robot counter…”. Sam happily agrees to allow child after child to demand a Cabbage Patch Kids and a “Rambo M-15” from the jolly fellow.

After his shift, while walking home in his Santa garb, Sam witnesses a purse snatching and decides to intervene with the same intensity of a Steven Seagal action scene. Sam becomes a newspaper celebrity for his actions and his greedy employer exploits this.

For a book that is 32-pages long, There is maybe 4-pages total of anything remotely resembling action. Two of those pages are at the climax of the book, where a terrorist Santa appears and the Scooby-Doo twist is evil St. Nick is the boss of the store.

The cover gives the allure of a B-grade blood bath! Where’s the gore? Where’s the gratuitous death? Where’s the rewarding explosion? Nowhere. Nothing happens and the main character disappears into nothing after a lame fight.

***

To wrap this up, I guess I was a little disappointed with this first round of transmissions. Optic Nerve was the stand out. If you’ve never looked into Tomine’s work, you really should.

And admittedly, I didn’t expect much of The Cross & The Switchblade. It’s a messy adaptation that was hectic and unorganized. The passion behind the product was lacking.

But what the actual hell Samurai Ninja? I think the biggest letdown is not meeting the expectation of a 80’s action extravaganza. The simple cover conveyed that. But what you get is a moral story that makes you feel like you’re being scalded by a salty geriatric for simply being young.

I don’t know what the next Transmission will cover. I’ve put together a few “themes” that I think will be interesting, Including an indie trade set, A obscure supers set, 90’s Mix set… A lot of sorting to go through. Also want to start a series where I catch up on the current series I’ve been reading (because I am far behind on everything).

Anyways, thanks for reading, crew. Is that something I want to call you, the reader? Crew? Hmm, Let me know and I’ll work on it.

 

 

 

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Uncharted Territory: The Walmart Comic Rack

Posted in Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 11/12/2016 by Kevin Entrekin

* Tuesday’s Gone- Metallica “My baby’s gone with the wind” RIP Sophie, my Baby Girl.

***

I hate going to Wal-Mart. There is a suffocating air as soon as you walk in the place. An air that reeks of artificial attitudes and a tension that feels like a brawl could break out for no reason at any moment. Unfortunately, the store is only a two-minute drive from home, so I have to brave the sanctified aisles of the mega cathedral of consumerism to acquire necessities.

While I hurriedly was trying to find the shortest check out line to purchase my sriracha and boxed quinoa, I saw something familiar, yet out-of-place: Comics. Not individual issues mind you, but packs of three relatively recent issues from Marvel and DC. They were inconspicuously stuffed between Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon cards and had a nice round price of a fiver on them. (Edit: this is a more recent photo of the display, where it is now directly marketed as Marvel/DC packs and the Marvel issues are now $10).

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Maybe this isn’t anything new and I’ve just missed it. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, really. It’s a logical business stepping point for the Big Two to start selling books at… well, practically anywhere they can. Like when Piggly Wiggly had a random rack of comics next to a Pog vending machine when I was a kid (90’s kid trigger warning).

These comic packs are water-testers. I wager it won’t be long before people can go to their local mega store for Wednesday pick-ups. Yet another threat the local comic shops will have to weather.

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Let’s dissect the bag I bought: I picked up the more mysterious packaging of the two, the Marvel pack (Which isn’t advertised as a marvel set as you can see from the scan above). It promised the possibilities of “randomly inserted Bronze, Silver, & Modern Age Keys”. A promise I suspected to be hollow and fruitless before ripping the package open.

I was surprised though when I did actually open it up, because I was expecting some stuff from a fifty-cent bin. Instead they were all three relatively recent Marvel issues: Star Wars: Shattered Empire #02, Radioactive Spider-Gwen #01, and Hercules #02. The oldest issues (SW and Gwen) date back to only December 2015 and Hercules is as recent as March 2016.

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  • Radioactive Spider-Gwen #01

I guess this was the “key” (gotta sneak in that insider comic lingo like “keys” to draw in the kiddos) first issue the promotion bubble was talking about.

I love Spider-Gwen. Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez’s creation is one of the best things Marvel (had) came out with in a long time. But, this is the second number one Gwennie received in 2015. The first five issues were disrupted by the marketing series Secret Wars, and after a few months Spider-Gwen “continued” with a new name and first issue.

And even though this is a continuation, a lot of the uniqueness and fun of the original initial issues have been lost. Rodriguez’s art hasn’t changed and Latour’s writing isn’t much different. But the fun is gone, and I think I know who is responsible: Marvel.

Marvel is its own worst enemy when it comes to good series like this, Howard the Duck, and Spider-Woman. Secret Wars was forced into Gwen’s world and had to “start over”. Then only a few issues into Radioactive, Gwen was sidetracked once again with the Spider-Women arch (combining forces with Silk and Spider-Woman). That series was quite fun actually, but still off course. Then they saw that the cream was sweet and made a Gwenpool series, thus trying to milk a cow before it can produce..

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  • Hercules #02

Hercules was the mystery issue in the pack. For starters, I had not heard of it. For a series that came out this year, it went unnoticed on the shelves at my local shop and I had not heard any praise for it. But this was issue two, and a second printing at that apparently. Maybe there was some thing more beyond the Liefeld-esque cover.

There wasn’t, sadly. I secretly wanted this to work and I can see what they were going for: The tarnished hero that must seek redemption. But it doesn’t really work when all I keep coming back to is thinking of Thor. That doesn’t usually matter to me, but the plot itself is predictable and the art forgettable, making the hero himself forgettable.

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  • Star Wars: Shattered Empire #02

Shatter Empire was the most interesting issue, and the far superior read in comparison to Hercules (in comparison to issues I hadn’t read, as I already had read Spider-Gwen).

I don’t remember this 4-part series when it first came out among the slew of almost 20+ Star Wars titles Marvel released to promote The Force Awakens. Before reading I did a little research and learned it was about Poe Dameron’s parents essentially, which put me on edge that it was just a flaming fandom rubbish pile.

But the plot is handled by storied writer Greg Rucka, and it’s a strong plot. Although I had not read the first issue, it was easy to catch up and get involved in the story. It mainly focuses on Poe’s mother Shara Bey, who is an ace rebel pilot assigned to escort Princess Leia on a mission to Naboo, where things go awry.

I think what surprised me more than the good story was the art. The art by Marco Checchetto, Emilio Laiso, and Angel Unzueta is solid and beautifully colored. Especially the fight sequence at the beginning of the issue between AT-ATs and rebel squadrons.

While there are some weak/unnecessary plot like Princess Leia writing condolence letters, this isn’t just a random story thrown together to be a promo for The Force Awakens. Assuming the rest of the series is as strong as this issue, I am intrigued enough to pick up a trade and read the whole series.

***

So, let’s break down what you get with this mix bag of comics: You get three comics from Marvel. Considering they are all fairly recent releases, for five dollars (or now it seems ten) you get twelve dollars worth of comics (each book individually cost $3.99). That is a bargain from a technical standpoint. But you have to consider what you’re getting: A mystery pack of issues that aren’t fresh. Yeah, I got a nice surprise with the Shattered Empire issue but still, that issue is for a series that ended a year ago. These are overstock issues comic shops have in discount bins so they can make space.

I see these packs, again, only as market testers. Something chain stores use as a litmus test to see if selling comics is profitable for them. I also see them as underwhelming gifts a family member gets you because “you’re into comics and I saw this while checking out”. Instead, do yourself a favor and venture into a comic shop. Yeah, you’ll have to pay regular price like the rest of the nerds, but at least you get something you want to read. And you’ll also maybe find a whole new community to be apart of.

 

Visiting the island: Island #6

Posted in Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , on 12/02/2016 by Kevin Entrekin

(listen: “Comfort Eagle” by Cake)

“… anybody with a terminally jangled lifestyle needs at least one psychic anchor every twenty-four hours…” St. Hunter S. Thompson said that. For him it was the solitude of a gluttonous breakfast chased by Bloody Marys and six fat lines of cocaine.

I think about him a lot lately, especially with America in the midst of election season. Wonder what he would think of this kingdom of fear known as the civilized world. Wonder what he would think of corrosive politics being intravenously injected into ever damn facet of normal life. What would he say about an open modern Nazi bastard and an open socialist running for president? A plethora, I imagine. But we’ve deviated off course a bit.

I wouldn’t categorize myself as terminally jangled, I guess. Moderately jangled sounds about right. But, my “psychic anchor” is slightly less extravagant than Hunter. I like to end my day bunked in bed during the early hours reading a few comics from a stack that never seems to diminish, only grow (hence, the name change from The Morning Thunder Buffalo). This time spent slipping between panels is comforting, like a film. Inspires creation, while allowing the chaos of the brain hemispheres to take a cease fire.

This comic is just one of the things I’ve been reading. In the future, I’m planning on talking more about a wide variety of things I’m reading, watching, and listening to. Fresh stuff off the shelf. Dusty gems from the fifty-cent bin. Newly released movies. Forgotten fried gold films.

This will probably also be a slow process and have growing pains. But, I’m excited to see where this goes. Its hard letting go of the buffalo. He helped me through some rough patches in life. But I had to let him go, which has been a personal lesson for over a year now. Letting things go for growth. Letting go of someone I loved. Letting go of the comforts of a dead-end job. Letting go of apathy.

(listen: “Separations” by Diarrhea Planet)

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Island #6

Published by Image Comics. $7.99 print/digital. Stories & art by F Choo (intro art), Onta (Badge of Pride), Gael Bertrand (A land Called Tarot), Katie Skelly, Sarah Horrocks (Essay on Kyoko Okazaki). Curated by Brandon Graham and Emma Ríos.

Comic mags are making a quite comeback. In a few months Grant Morrison is taking over as editor of Heavy Metal, sparking new interest in the beloved schlock rag. And around the same time of that announcement back in summer, Brandon Graham and Image Comics published the first issue of Island.

For context, Graham is one of my favorite artist. When I was first starting to get back into comics, my friend Cody introduced me to his work in Multiple Warheads and it was an instant attraction. The fluid movement of his art and his pun-laddened writing is a lucid-dream experience. It’s like being wrapped in a warm blanket as you’re lightly led through a bizarre, unsafe, fun Soviet carnival.

Island features very little of Graham’s work or writing, outside of his new installments of Multiple Warheads. But, his presence is looming over the project. He gathers artist and writers who are similar to him, outsiders of the norm in terms of the two big publishers. People like Amy Clare are fresh on the scene, with her first work being published in the third issue. People like Farel Dalrymple are legends in comix, and he has contributed two new editions of Pop Gun War in previous mags.

This issue will be the most polarizing for readers, I think, as far as content. Half of the issue is dedicated to furries. Even the cover features the characters from the story, Badge of Pride by Onta. For those outside the know, Furries are a fandom subculture dedicated to fictional tales of anthropomorphic animals with human characteristics, varying in degrees of eroticism usually.

Badge of Pride is about a gay couple, one open and the other closeted, going to a pride parade. Not to be blunt, but that the general gist.

Now, I have a core theology about literature and film: a) All stories must be approached with an open mind, rarely without regard to subject matter. Adam Sandler, for example though, is met with prejudice (among similar toxic things).  b) The story has to be good. With that practice in mind…

I enjoyed Badge of Pride. It accomplished the latter while I kept in mind the former. Though it doesn’t feel like a complete story, so much as something to peak your interest. Further reading is available on Onta’s webpage (nsfw, by the way). There are also themes of acceptance and being proud of who you are in the story.

I think the point of this installment was a better understanding of the furry culture. Which it has done to the extent it needed. Will I, or the public as a whole, fully understand the appeal? Probably not. But things like this help bridge the gap to understanding and common ground. And maybe someone who is shy about furryism will get a great sense of inclusion from this.

The other half of this issue is the second installment of A land called Tarot by Gael Bertrand, a wordless fantasy adventure that I absolutely loved from the first story in issue four. And this second installment is just as great. The art is simply gorgeous, the colors rich and saturated. The characters have an instant charisma and attraction to them.

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The wordless narrative is effective. It leaves a lot of imagination for the reader, which ultimately is the point of a fantasy story. Though, it is a little more loose here and may require a second read, but its such a fun ride to go on.

There’s also an essay by Sarah Horrocks on the use of death and corpses in Kyoko Okazaki’s mangas, which is an engaging read for those familiar with Okazaki’s work. And a few works of fashion art from katie Skelly, which are nice and really left me wanting more.

This issue is a bit smaller in size. It’s the second that has saddle-stitch staple binding (unlike previous issues that were perfect bound), and is approximately thirty-pages shorter than previous issues. Is this an omen of some sort? Hopefully not. But it is worrying that the next issue comes out in May.

Spending $8 on a comic magazine may seem like an extravagance, but you genuinely get your rubles worth from Island. More so than shelling out $4 for a marvel book that’s half-filled with adverts for Agents of Shield.

*Bought at Comics & Collectibles, the best shop in Memphis.

What Comics I’ve Been Reading- April, Part One

Posted in Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 18/04/2014 by Kevin Entrekin

BlhyA5zIQAEJUj9.jpg largeI don’t get down to the comic shop as much as I’d like. Mainly because the closest one is in Memphis. Which, in terms of math, is distance plus funds plus mags costing on average about $3 to $5 equals rare visits. I mainly keep up with the goings on in trade paperbacks and similar. But when I do decide to take the advice of Tom and Donna to treat myself, I’ve always gone to Comics & Collectibles on Popular Ave. I’ve never really had a reason to go anywhere else. It has a nice atmosphere, great staff, and all the comics and trades you could want.

Recently my friend Cody and I visited C&C and this is some of new(ish) stuff I picked up:

comroyals-The Royals: Masters of War #1 and #2. Six part series. Vertigo comics. Written by Rob Williams. Art by Simon Coleby. Suggested for Mature Readers. $2.99.

It is the Royal family as you have never seen them before. Throughout history, the royal families of the world have consisted of individuals with super powers. The more pure the bloodline, the stronger the powers. Which might explain that whole inbreeding bit. But during WW2 the royals agree to not use their powers… until British Prince Henry can no longer take sitting by and intervenes. While the morale of Britain is at its highest, the young Prince has broken the treaty and all the countries of the world take notice.

This story is quite an ingenious idea, one that I am surprised no one has thought of before. Ever since Tarantino’s Inglourious Bastards, the idea of alternative history has never been quite the same. This work by Rob Williams is probably the first truly fun story to come out since the above mentioned film in any medium. Simon Coleby’s artwork is beautifully dark and has a sepia-tinge noir feel, which adds a necessary depth here. Having read the first two parts, I’m now really intrigued to see where William will take this story. Part three is now available in local comic shops as well, and this series is well worth looking into.

comempowEmpowered: Internal Medicine. Special one shot issue. Dark Horse Comics. Story by Adam Warren. Art by Brandon Graham (color) and Adam Warren (B&W). No rating- personally suggest older audience. $3.99.

Before this mag, I have never read any of the Empowered comics. I picked this up because of Brandon Graham. I have just recently become infatuated with Mr. Graham’s Gonzo graffiti-style of art and storytelling. He is one of my favorite artist working right now.

The great thing about this one-shot is you don’t really need to know anything about Empowered to enjoy the story. You get a pretty good idea about the character’s modus operandi and even get a crib sheet recap on the first page.

The mass of the story is by Graham, whose colors and art and puns are beautifully presented here. Graham is a brilliant pick for this female lead, as I believe few (male) artist represent strong women quite like him. He can pencil a voluptuous women in real-world dimensions and can make things sexy without making it demeaning to the character, which for some reason seems to be a difficulty for many. Mr. Warren’s manga-esque work here is in beautiful black and white. Together, these two make a fun and entertaining one-shot worthy of the $3.99 price tag.

I think what I come away with after reading this comic most of all is:

  1. I’m very interested in going back and looking at the Empowered trades now.
  2. I’d like to see Graham and Warren work together again.

comdoop– All-New Doop #1. Series. Marvel Comics. Written by Peter Milligan. Art by David Lafuente. Rated T+ (Personally, younger audience would be fine). $3.99.

I picked up this comic because of the Mike Allred (another favorite artist) cover. So I was a bit disappointed when I learned he actually only did the cover for this character he created years ago. The bright side though is that Allred’s wife Laura does the coloring here, which are some of the best you’ll find in a comic. Ultimately though, this first issue falls a bit flat. While it’s a standard first issue in many ways, the direction of where this story is going seems a bit aimless. It has its moments of zany fun and enjoyment, but I think it’s missing that one certain thing that really makes it interesting.

I plan on picking up the second issue when it comes out, but the little green X-Man really has to impress for me to keep picking up any further.

saga3-Saga, Volume 3. TPB collection of series #13-18. Image Comics. Written by Brian K. Vaughan. Art by Fiona Staples. Rated M/Mature. $14.99.

Image Comics is my favorite comic publisher at the moment. They have amazing creator-owned mini-series like Brian Woods Mara and Grant Morrison’s Happy!. They also have ongoing series like Sex Criminals and Great Pacific. Or have you ever heard of The Walking Dead? Yeah, they do that too.

But I think the best representation of what Image has to offer is the vaughn/Staples work Saga. For those unfamiliar with the series, it’s rather simple. Marko is from Wreath. Alana is from Landfall. These two places have been at war with each other forever, but that doesn’t stop Marko and Alana from falling in love with each other. Eventually the two have a child, and both governments of each planet have no interest of letting the birth known to their citizens. The couple have to fight their way planet to planet against the like of bounty hunters and military officers. And worse of all, Marko’s parents.

Of all the now three collected story arcs in the series, I would say this is the weakest. Not to say that it isn’t great. The writing is still top-notch, adult, and witty. Vaughn’s art is still sharp and beautiful. And there is plenty of action and surprises to keep you entertained. But still this just doesn’t have the same bite or vigor. Only slightly though. Still worth picking up.

Part two should be on the way soon…

 

 

I Saw A Film Today… Thor: The Dark World

Posted in Film Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 17/11/2013 by Kevin Entrekin

doalythorAs I look back on my review of Thor, and having re-watched it recently as well, I’ve come to realize I was very generous by giving the film a “See it!” pass. It is a really mediocre effort from Marvel in reality. It has an uneven plot, alright action, and sporadic pacing that makes it a rather lame flick. Granted, most of the special effects and casting are rather spot on, but not much else really delivers like other films offered in the so-called “phase one”. So expectations weren’t the highest going into it. To say I was surprised by the end result though would be an understatement.

Two years from where the first film left off, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been a busy little Asgardian prince. He and the Warrior Three have been restoring peace throughout the nine realms and after many battles, have accomplished their task. Time to clean up and head home, right?

Well, this is a Marvel film, so some city needs to be excessively destroyed. Why not London, where Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Darcy (Kat Dennings), and the unhinged Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) are researching anomalies that are linked with the nine realms aligning. Then an ancient race of elves hellbent of destroying the realms begin attacking and all kinds of chaos breaks loose.

Much to my surprise, The Dark World may be one of my favorite films Marvel has made in the last few years. Sure, it is mostly mindless action and many times the plot is fairly predictable, but the film remains light enough to make a pleasantly entertaining film. Some of the side gags are a little unnecessary at times but ultimately they lend to the charm of the film.

The action sequences are nothing original here and at times are somewhat silly. Most are what you’ve come to expect in recent years, Slow motion moments of masculinity followed by Thor actually throwing the hammer down. The visual effects aren’t much different from any of the other either, but regardless they are very enjoyable to watch. Although I do suggest skipping it in 3-D. Much like 98% of the films released this year in the medium (Pacific Rim and World War Z are the exceptions), it is unnecessary and adds little to nothing to the experience.

The next two paragraphs may slip slightly into spoiler territory. So fairly thee warned.

One thing that I’ve come to find most annoying about Marvel releases in the last few years is the romanticizing of the villain, and the best example I can thing of is Loki. In the comics, Loki is evil. Plain, simple. Yet the common trend recently is to make fans more sympathetic towards the villain. Enough so that fandoms and other individuals can cheer for them and take their side. In this film, Loki dies… in the arms of his teary-eyed brother as he draws the final breath from his body. But then he appears at the end (shocker, I know), and the fandoms and fans rejoice, knowing that ridiculously adorable murderous trickster will continue doing the baddie game.

This subject of the modern role of heroes and villains was discussed extensively this weekend at a local comic con and there is a lot more to discuss. More so than this review can delve into. Maybe an article in the future can open up a discussion. Regardless, we’re moving on reluctantly.

The casting in the two Thor films are a pretty impressive choice. Chris Hemsworth is spot-on, giving a depth to this character that was missing from the previous film and The Avengers. On the opposite side, Tom Hiddleston is brilliant and crafty as Loki, which makes what I brought up in the previous paragraphs all the more annoying. Anthony Hopkins is enjoyable in a cheesy type of way. He’s half Shakespearean, half Games of Thrones. The supporting cast is great just as well. Maybe the greatest achievement of this film is giving each person more depth.

With all it’s minor falters, Thor: The Dark World delivers a Marvel film in the best possible way.

* Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some suggestive content. 112 minutes. Directed by Alan Taylor (Palookaville, Kill the Poor).

** Poster by Doaly.

*** Thanks to mi hombre Cody for seeing this with me.

 

 

Why You Should Stop Worrying About Ben Affleck and Worry About Everything Else

Posted in Nerdism with tags , , , , , , , on 27/08/2013 by Kevin Entrekin

Ben AffleckNerds, though we vary in so many forms and shapes and mindsets, are united in many glorious ways. One of which is just how opinionated we are about… well, everything. You can be praised one day for viewing some obscure anime OVA and then the next day be chastised for never viewing an episode of Firefly (Fillion-Fanatics, pipe down and find your inhalers, it is on my list). It is one of the things that binds us, grandiose arguments about anything and everything.

But, sometimes, just occasionally, possibly, we need to be reminded to take a giant chill-the-hell-out-icillian, 35mg. This no more so relevant than with the recent announcement of Ben Affleck taking over the role of Bruce Wayne in the upcoming 2015 Batman Vs. Superman film under the helm of Zach Snyder.

For weeks rumors swirled with who would be donning the cowl after Christian Bale. Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Joe Manganiello, Matthew Goode… Who oh who would it be? And then from nowhere it was announced that Benny would take over the role, and I was pleasantly surprised. What a great choice, right? Sure, his greatest crutch will be having to portray “wealth”, a task for such a blue-collar man, but think of having another top-notch performer in the cape…

But immediately the nerdverse, and anyone who had viewed a Marvel/DC film in the last few years, were sharpening the pitchforks and soaking rags in petrol for molotov cocktails. “What? He’s already Daredevil! I wanted Orlando Bloom to be Batman!!!!”, “Worst casting decision in the history of cinema”, “Dude too damm famous”, and other sorts of rubbish filled my timelines and feeds and Tumblr posts.

This is nothing new. With the announcement of every new Bond, especially current and widely considered brilliant Daniel Craig, there is an outcry of disapproval. I think the one that really stands out in relevance to this situation is when Heath Ledger was named as The Joker for The Dark Knight. People were furious that the handsome guy who was in “that there homo film”, to use the prose of my region of the world’s inhabitants, would be slathering the white and red face paint across his face. Yet, all that guff was forgotten the second his tragically twisted mug graced the screen.

What I’m getting at is you need to be patient and have some faith, because of all the things that could go wrong with this film, Affleck is probably not one of them. Because while the initial idea of of a versus film sounds like a novel idea, it’s actually could be a huge mistake for DC Comics. Possibly bigger than Green Lantern. Well, maybe not that bad. But close.

I just wonder if the movie-going public is ready for a versus film. Sure, it’s been in the comic community for decades, a nice little niche that spawns debate. Spider-Man Vs. Wolverine. Hulk Vs. Superman. Superman Vs. Spider-Man. JLA vs. Avengers. Godzilla vs. Barkley (Charles Barkley, by the way. No really, look it up. Remember that Nike Commercial from the 90’s?). There are many more. But here’s a little spoiler: Most, if not all, end in a draw of some sort. Usually when one of the hero’s archenemy shows up out of nowhere.

That in itself is enough to put off many film goers who expect a more definitive end to such a duel. That alone will leave some to exit theaters saying “Psh, that was stupid. Batman would have totally won”. But I wonder why DC Comics chose now to do this film. In a time when DC films are on a unstable platform, why? I can see Marvel being in a comfortable place to release a verses film, no skin off their noses, but not their biggest competitor.

And the fact that this film will be under the helm of Zach Snyder is worrisome. Man of Steel, to clarify, was a film I really enjoyed. But it just got by. The focus on choices and family were an unusual touch from him. But nearly everything else, the over-the-top CGI fight sequences that don’t have much structure, the lagging story, and dull character constructs are just a few of Snyder’s crutches. Now with the weight of the two biggest stars in DC’s arsenal, plus the genesis of what will be a Justice League franchise… do you really want all that in the hands of the guy who made Sucker Punch?

Look, we can sit here and nit-pick aspects and casting about a film that wont be out in two years day in- day out. But you know where it gets us? Nowhere. Because at the end of the day, the thing we are arguing about is going forward regardless of what pithy comment or meme you post on your Facebook. Really, we shouldn’t worry at all. We should focus on maybe something that physically effects us more, like bills or something else grown up. Or not, because that type of rubbish sucks.

Regardless, as I said earlier, just have some faith. And go watch Argo and then maybe stop judging Mr. Affleck solely on some failure of a film years ago, or where he is from, or how tall he is, or whatever other fluff you can come up with.