Economic recovery

May 29, 2008

Wow it’s hard to believe that almost a year has gone by since I started this blog. At the time I was taking a photo class at Citrus College (we were working with film mostly) since then I have become more familiar with the process but am mostly using digital.

As May comes to a close, thanks to uncle sam’s economic recovery I got a check and was able to buy a decent digital SLR. A Nikon D40 with 18-55 mm lense to be exact.  I don’t really mind spending money on it since I view it as a good investment for my career as I take a lot of pictures for my job with the newspaper.

In fact, I was shooting some scholarship award presentations just last night at the latest La Puente council meeting.

Nothing else really going on right now, my latest comic reviews are still being posted at comicsbulletin.com and I am still trying to decide if I am going to attend next month’s comic con in San Diego. I really wanted to last year, but I was majorly bummed by the intrusion of the Hollywood studios into comic’s biggest stage.

I was also offered a job with the City of Huntington Park editing and writing for their newsletter. It doesn’t really pay great, only about $55 a week and I would have to drive out there twice a month, but I would get my photos printed. The best thing is it would allow me to cut back hours at my job at school to concentrate some time on my career. 

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Friday morning quaterbacking

May 23, 2008

Ultimate X-Men begins a new story arc and a new lease on life in the post Robert Kirkman era with issue #94. The title is now being penned by Aron E. Coleite and Mark Brooks handles the pretty pictures.

The problem I have reading this title is the same one I’ve always had while following previous incarnations of this comic dealing with a revised history of the team; as a long time X-Men reader, I always feels as though I am reading original stories which are below par some of the classic X-Men comics I’ve read in the past.

Once you’ve perused the likes of Chris Claremont and other classic story tellers, it seems as though this new Ultimate universe version of Xavier’s children keeps borrowing from classic fare to improve upon or at least equal its 616 counterpart. And it never fully delivers. However, just because you can’t equal perfection or as close to it as you can come doesn’t mean you can’t be good. This is the case with this comic book which is a solid enough effort on a consistent basis.

Some elements of the stories are always intriguing such as this issue’s appearance of Alpha Flight whose members are made more powerful by the use of a drug which enhances their mutant powers to God like proportions.

The writer also does a decent job of delving into Colossus’ back story. If you haven’t been following the Ultimate version of our favorite Russian X-Men, you might be surprised (as I was) that he is gay in this book, unlike his traditional counterpart.

I am not even sure when his romance with another former member of Alpha Flight started, but this opens up interesting story angles dealing with his relationship with Northstar, Marvel’s original gay super hero. While it takes some getting used to by those who have followed the character’s exploits in the traditional version of this comic, it isn’t any more revolutionary than previous changes made to the X mythos in this title.

Coleite goes further by posing a moral question to the students of the X-Mansion: how far should they go to counteract the threat posed by villains using more ruthless methods such as their taking of power enhancing drugs?

Just as the matter gets explored, the requisite cliffhanger occurs, followed by a short preview of Moon Knight #20.

I really enjoy the artwork in this title. Big panels are used throughout but they do not detract from the flow of the story and rarely does it venture into giant sized spread pages which are common in many Marvel titles and which serve little purpose other than as nice mini pin ups. Some of the story elements in this comic have insured me picking it up in the future, if only to see which X-Men characters are given the ultimate treatment next.


Buffy S8: Wolves at the Gate part 3

May 21, 2008

 

Giant Dawny Summers OK so this issue came out 2 weeks ago, I’ve had it all along and read it, but didn’t review it since so much has happened of late. No matter, here’s a review of “Wolves at the Gate” Part 3.

 

Bravo! Drew Goddard manages to maintain the momentum from last issue (I know I called it the weakest in the series thus far, but there was still some good stuff there) and delivers a completely satisfying read. Some elements which make this issue of Buffy Season 8 great:

 

  1. The opening image. Wow, now that’s the way to follow up on a cliffhanger, also it leads to a poignant quintessential Buffy moment. Buffy as the general, the head of the Slayer army, the one who (as she tells Satsu later in the comic) ends up making all the tough calls. Buffy at her best, as leader.
  2. Dracula’s appearance. OK, so it still makes no sense he’s an ally of the vampire slayers but at least he’s less annoying this issue and more in character in line with his only season 5 appearance.
  3. The Scooby gang cornering vampires again. Yes, they are uber vamps with a magical property and ability to transform into air. The solution is both satisfying and makes an awesome statement: “This is war.” Indeed.
  4.  Buffy’s fascinating exchanges with Satsu about their relationship. Buffy’s starting to care about someone else again and in the immortal words of George Costanza, “That’s no good!”
  5. Xander’s hilarious attempt at a first date with his new love interest and Drac’s hilarious reaction to their first kiss. Classic Buffy humor.

But the absolute greatest thing about this issue?? It’s a full page spread, it’s the best use of a full page I have seen in comics in quite some time. Marvel overuses them. Here, Dark Horse shows how it should be done: Sparingly, for emphasis, for a fantastic unexpected moment. A moment which had me chuckling for several seconds and which made the comic worth buying (as if you actually needed a reason beyond the fact it’s Dark Horse’s best book outside of Umbrella Academy and Hellboy).

Bravo!

 This comic kicks butt from start to finish and perfectly translates Buffy’s episodic legacy into the colorful pages of the comic book medium. This comic hardly ever fails leaving me drooling for more. 


NBA playoffs update

May 17, 2008

Those damned Lakers. They are like a big fat, pesky troublesome fly that’s buzzing around your room and you can’t wait to get them against the wall, behind a curtain where you can swat the life out of them.

The Utah Jazz almost did it, but they were bailed out by the Jazz’ poor play in the 4th quarter of the next to final game of the series. I have to say that there was also some horrible officiating in that game. I am not trying to imply that the refs are biased towards the home team, but they certainly weren’t calling fouls on one end of the court but were quick to blow the whistle on the other end. It’s almost as though the refs are mesmerized or afraid to make a call and anger the home fans.

Well, no matter, I still think the Lakers are not good enough to hang with San Antonio or New Orleans in the next round and will definitely be crushed against any of the Eastern Conference teams. Though the Celtics have shown a troubling inability to win games on the road, in a 6 or 7 game series I serioulsy doubt the Lakers can come into Boston and win, the Celtics swept them every game during the regular season and that is no lie, that is a fact. I think that Kevin Garnett is going to be the “fly swatter” if Boston manages to get by the Cavs.


The invasion continues

May 14, 2008

OK. Been away for far too long. This time around I take a look at Marvel’s Secret Invasion #2. Here we go!

Despite the incredibly cool cover by Yu, Morales and Martin, this issue is incredibly thin content wise for a $4 comic. Sure, the interiors feature nice artwork by Yu and it’s got a glossier cover than your average copy of New Avengers, but other than that, there are no special features, sketches or extras that would warrant the increased cover price.

All in all, this is a confusing issue with little advancement of the plot. The Avengers are still in the Savage Land where they are squaring off against what they perceive to be Skrull impostors. Some surprises are revealved here but the annoying return of Bendi’s less than inspiring dialogue does nothing to clarify the proceedings and most of the comic is one prolonged battle sequence which is less succesful than Bendis’ handling of the Skrull throneworld as depicted in New Avengers #40.

Perhaps the best thing about this issue is the sequence in which a ship lands in Manhattan and the Young Avengers are there to witness the event. A cool cliffhanger closes the issue in grand style, but the overuse of double page spreads does little to relieve a sense that this issue was mostly filler with bigger reveals to be expected in later chapters of the series and in the various Marvel titles coming out on a monthly basis. Really what else is to be expected of a big summer crossover?


Iron Man movie review

May 5, 2008


Without sounding too much like a critic spouting off trite expressions of praise, I would have to say that Marvel Studios has another resounding triumph with the new Iron Man film. While the new global threat to America has been updated for modern audiences from a cold war era enemy to the more extremist terrorist organizations in the middle East, to dismiss this as merely another Ramboesque “us” against “them” fantasy on film would be premature in judgement, although there are some elements of that present.
    This movie has a definite message which is voiced by a minor character early in the film and which Tony Stark takes to heart, pardon the pun. That message, “Don’t waste your life” sends Tony on a path of introspection but can be applied to any of us, while serving as a strong backbone from which to hang the rest of the film’s narrative on.
     While the Tony Stark seen gambling, partying, boozing and ogling flight attendants pole dancing in his private jet in the early part of the film hardly resembles the dedicated industrialist and skilled tactician presented in the comics, the story does a good enough job of developing the character’s transformation into a more responsible entity and Robert Downey Jr. is a skilled enough actor to carry the lead role while balancing both a destructive persona and the more logical side of the character which embodies the work ethic and pioneering sense of ingenuity which has always been this country’s trademark, while at the same time infusing his Iron Man with a sense of whimsy and non-conformity.
     He never follows the script prepared for him during a press conference much like a genius inventor would dismiss the suggestions of someone who doesn’t know as much as he does about his work.
Of course, the filmmakers make it all work by not only having Iron Man oppose his former captives in the Middle East but by giving Stark and the audience by extension, a glimpse into a reality which he had previously been naïve about, a plot point which precipitates his epiphany but which also puts him in direct opposition with Obadiah Stane, the film’s villain and Stark’s physical and ideological foil.
While Iron Monger is never actually mentioned in the movie by name, and while Stane’s backstory has been simplified to present a subversive threat from within, rather than a hostile takeover from a rival company to Stark Industries, Jeff Bridges who plays the villain does use the term in one of his conversations with Tony.
     Unfortunately, Stane’s treachery and subversion are telegraphed early on, not only by his business related interactions with Tony, but by a comic fan’s knowledge of his back story, if they were fortunate enough to have read Iron Man #200. Luckily, this doesn’t detract too much from a fanboy’s delight in watching one of Marvel’s few self made superheroes leaping from the printed page into the silver screen, nor would it interfere with an audience completely unaware of the hero’s back story from enjoying this cinematic adventure.
      Indeed, a sequence in which Tony is testing his suit, flying around at night is one of the most gorgeous I have seen in a super hero film thus far. It’s great fun and is but one example of some cutting edge special effects which are prominent throughout the entire film.
    Another major aspect of the movie is Tony’s involvement with his assistant Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. Unlike romantic interests in previous films, Potts is actually indispensable to Tony despite the fact he at times treats her like an appendage or like one of his robotic helpers. There’s a quiet, playful infatuation bordering on attraction based on admiration on the side of Potts, which would have come across as hackneyed in the hands of a less skilled actress. It’s also refreshing to see that Potts is not your average damsel in distress.
   So the question remains, is the movie worthy of your hard earned money and does it deliver as a form of escapist entertainment based on a comic book source? Is it able to capture the spirit of the comics and be embraced into the pantheon of good superhero flicks like X-Men and others? The answer to both questions appears to be an unqualified yes.


Thursday morning quaterbacking

May 1, 2008

This is my new feature where I present mini reviews of some of the books that came out this week. With no further ado, let’s get into some of this week’s new releases:

Daredevil Blood of the Tarantula #1

 

This issue of Daredevil downplays the origin and powers of the original Black Tarantula created by Tom De Falco and Steve Skroce in Amazing Spiderman and instead focuses on his life as a vigilante fighting drug trafficking, much like earlier Daredevil stories featuring the character have done in the past.

Carlos La Muerte is a desperate man who turns to Matt Murdock for help when his family is threatened in order to get him to stop his anti crime crusade. The story is briskly paced but the artwork is branded with the same murky feel of modern crime noir themed comics and the team-up between Daredevil and Tarantula isn’t as satisfying as earlier team ups with Spiderman for example. Brubaker does a good job of weaving the story, but his best work is still reserved for the biting politically based narrative of Captain America if you ask me. I am somewhat disturbed by the depiction of minority characters once again as criminals (in this case Latin drug lords) even though the central character is a redeeming personality, most of his fellow Latinos are criminals and low lives in a comic where the main star is a white blind man.

 

Avengers Initiative #12

After a year’s worth of story, it’s astonishing that Dan Slott and Christos Gage continue to deliver on the best post Civil War comic on the stands. I thought maybe following an action packed arc where K.I.A., the clone with the Tactigon weapon went on a killing spree on the Initiative’s training center (named for the original Human Torch Jim Hammond) that we would get a fairly anti climatic or dull read but such was not the case. The aftermath of K.I.A’s rampage is treated this issue with the utmost intricate detail and Tony Stark’s reaction is pretty damned interesting. Also noteworthy is the fact that the cadets are allowed to graduate following up on the characterization which has been a hallmark of the series since its inception, though not everyone believes in the Initiative’s mission. There is some fantastic artwork here by Steve Uy which is made more impressive by the fact he has little action sequences to pencil this issue. This comic continues to be a winner.

 

 

New Avengers #40

 

This comic gives the reader something a lot of Bendis penned comics have lacked, a fun and interesting feel following up on the events of Secret Invasion #1 and building up on the Skrull’s interesting history. The intergalactic history of Marvel’s alien races has a long running tradition and Bendis milks it for all it’s worth in order to set up the current storyline. That the Avengers are hardly present in this comic should not be a source of great consternation considering the rich, complex and detailed back story we are treated to here. Also, there is some stunning artwork by Jim Cheung who does an astonishing job of rendering the Skrulls and their throne world. Given Bendis’ propensity for hyperbole in his prose, it’s a rare issue which gives us some solid dialogue and given his affinity for a certain New Avenger, the last page reveal may not be as much of a shocker, though it is still rendered beautifully as is the rest of this fine comic book.

 

Ultimate X-Men #193

 

It’s hard not to read this book and be in awe of Kirkman’s handle on the story. He knows how to write an X-Man book with great pacing and pulse racing slugfests featuring a big showdown in the climactic final chapter between Apocalypse and the Phoenix. Unfortunately, all the elements feel like a re-tread of previous X-Men stories, spruced up for the modern era. Indeed, it’s hard to get excited over Jean Gray becoming Phoenix again and over some of the time travel aspects of this book given they were previously expertly explored in classic stories over in Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont years ago.  The artwork in the comic by Harvey Tolibao is incredibly fluid and beautiful to behold, even though I thought it completely unnecessary to turn Phoenix into a nearly nude version of herself. X-Men fans and fans of Marvel’s ultimate revisionist universe will undoubtedly dig the book, even if the narrative seems a tad repetitive.