Saturday, November 18, 2017

Justice League - Movie Review

   So finally, after a long wait, the Justice League has arrived on the big screen.

   The good news is: I didn't hate it.

   The bad news is: it has problems. 

   The movie is all about putting the band together, following up on story threads laid out in the execrable Batman v Superman movie and the mostly-delightful Wonder Woman movie.

   So we find Batman (played by Ben Affleck), who's been fighting crime in Gotham for 20 years and is showing his age. He discovers the threat of an alien invasion, and when Diana (the luminous Gal Gadot) checks in with the same warning, they go in search of allies - namely, Aquaman (played with Surfer Dude / Point Break brio by Jason Momoa), the Flash (played with nervous energy and humor by Ezra Miller), and the mysterious Cyborg (played with a brooding intensity by Ray Fisher).

   The loss of Superman (Henry Cavill) at the end of BvS has left the Earth vulnerable, and the CGI monster known as Steppenwolf (the voice of Claran Hinds) brings an army of Parademons to conquer the planet - and considering what happened the first time he attacked the planet (depicted in a terrific flashback battle sequence), it looks bad for our side.

   So you can guess where it all goes, with the heroes trying to stop Steppenwofl before he can find the elements he needs to finish his plans.

   In a lot of ways this movie is a delight. As a longtime fan, it's wonderful to see these heroes working together - but the interactions are a bit clumsy, and the attempt at humor often fall flat. But at least there is some humor in there and a general feeling that the heroes are trying to help people. They even go out of their way to rescue innocent civilians (which would have been unheard of in Man of Steel or BvS).

   But the story just seems to stutter along, with no sense of urgency. When danger threatens the world, the heroes decide to... rest up for the evening, and then get down to the job at hand. (Oh, and while I'm throwing out problems, please: cut out the casual profanity - it's not needed; eliminate the random brutal deaths; and replace the Flash's costume - it just doesn't work, and the running effect needs tweaking. The super-speed stuff is great, but when they show him running it. looks. terrible.)

   Look, this is definitely the best of the "new" DC films (which include Suicide Squad, Man of Steel and BvS). They still have some work to do to get on the level of Marvel's films, but they're getting closer. They have a great cast and a really strong supporting cast, including Alfred (the wry Jeremy Irons), Lois Lane (the lovely but tough Amy Adams) and Commissioner Gordon (the amazing J.K. Simmons). 

   They have a solid team together (with room for more), and they have a much better tone and mix of personalities to work with.

   They just need a better opponent - and some better writing (and consistency) through the whole movie. 

   (Oh, and I was very happy to see Gardner Fox credited as the creator of the Justice League (of America) - but why no credit for Mike Sekowsky, who drew the book for its first eight (or so) years? Or Julius Schwartz, the editor who probably dreamed up the concept?)

Grade: B

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Friday, November 17, 2017

The Incredible Hulk #710

   For the Incredible Hulk it's back to Planet Hulk again for the first time.

    Let me explain.

   This version of the Hulk is not Bruce Banner, who paid a memorable visit to the world Sakaar, fought a number of strange alien creatures, overthrew the government and became ruler.

   This time around, it's the Amadeus Cho version of the character, who finds himself in deadly danger, fighting the Warlord of Sakaar for the lives of a threatened tribe.

   But who will win the day - the genius side of Cho, or the animal side of the Hulk?

   As always, Greg Pak writes a powerful story and Greg Land's art is terrific, crafting beautiful and / or intense creatures and a strange world for them to inhabit.

    The issue suffers slightly from gladiatorial creep - the traditional "face impossible odds in the fighting arena" bit - but the action is fierce and it'll be fun to see where the story goes from here.

Grade: B+

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Not Brand Echh #14

   There's been a bit of a publishing gap between issues #13 and #14 of Not Brand Echh.

   To be exact, it's been 48 years.

   When the first issue appeared in 1967, I was stunned - it featured work by some of Marvel's top creators - including a Fantastical Four pastiche by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (!!)  - and it was absolutely hysterical.

   The issues that followed jabbed Marvel's greatest heroes (Ironed Man! Charlie America!) and even their competition's characters (Stuporman! Gnatman and Rotten!) - and 11-year-old Chuck was a huge fan.

   I wish I could say the same about the latest installment, but geezer Chuck (who, admittedly, is not the target audience), read this issue without ever managing to laugh out loud. (I did smile a few times.)

   The problem is that the issue is making fun of modern conceits (Cap is a member of Hydra! Deadpool and Gwenpool are everywhere! Let's give all the heroes new female counterparts!) - and the humorous takes are too close to what we're actually seeing in the comics.

   Well, that's probably too harsh - younger readers might get a huge kick out of this comic, since it focuses on their heroes.

    As for me, I'll keep hoping for the return of the Fantastical Four. Or, you know, the actual Fantastic Four.

Grade: C+

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

New Comics Day

   Here's what I picked up today at the comics shop:

- AMERICAN GODS #9 - The dead start piling up.

- BUG THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #5 (OF 6) - Bug meets OMAC!

- CHAMPIONS #14 - Worlds collide!

- DEFENDERS #7 - Kingpins of New York!

- DOCTOR STRANGE #381 - Loki is the Sorcerer Supreme?

- HAWKEYE #12 - Fed up with clones!

- INCREDIBLE HULK #710 - Return to Planet Hulk!

- JUSTICE LEAGUE #33 - METAL tie-in!

- MAESTROS #2 - What is wizarding school like?

- MAGE HERO DENIED #4 (OF 15) - Kevin must fight a goddess!

- NOT BRAND ECHH #14 - The return of Forbush Man!

- MIGHTY THOR #701 - Death is on the way.

- WILD STORM #9 - Discovering alien tech!

- WYNONNA EARP SEASON ZERO #5 (OF 5) - Showdown with Mad Mary!


     And I received these review copies:

- ACTIONVERSE ONGOING #3 STRAY - Wrapping up the Rottweiler Years!

- ASPEN UNIVERSE DECIMATION #2 - Time for decimation!

- BLOODSHOT SALVATION #3 - Daddy dear.

- DOCTOR WHO 12TH YEAR THREE #9 - The Doctor, Bill and Nardole!

- HERCULES WRATH OF THE HEAVENS #4 - Facing his greatest enemies!

- KID SHERLOCK VOL 01 - Collecting the first adventures of the kid detective.

- MINKY WOODCOCK GIRL WHO HANDCUFFED HOUDINI #1 - Solving a mystery around Houdini!

- MISBEGOTTEN RUNAWAY NUN #3 - Lots of familiar faces.

- NINJA-K #1 - New series!

- PENNY DREADFUL #7 - Continuing the TV series.

- PRINCELESS RAVEN YEAR 2 #1 LOVE AND REVENGE - Adventure on the high seas!

- PUPPET MASTER CURTAIN CALL #1 - The final chapter!

- SHINOBI NINJA PRINCESS LIGHTNING ONI #3 - When it rains, it pours!

- WARHAMMER 40000 FALLEN #2 (OF 4) - Can the Dark Angels be destroyed?
     And that's it! Whew!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Harbinger Renegade #1

   While I've never been a fan of "zero" issues, this is a "done in one" adventure that sets up the upcoming Harbinger Wars event book for Valiant - and it's well worth checking out.

   The focus is on a military strike mission by the augmented H.A.R.D. Corps team (a SEAL-type team with super-powers), which hopes to take down a psiot terrorist.

   Their target seems to be hiding on a remote island, so the team plans its attack carefully. Of course, any war plan rarely survives the first encounter on the battlefield - and the team soon finds itself in a fierce firefight.

   It's a wild, brutal fight from start to finish, with a strong script by Rafer Roberts and powerful art by Juan Jose Ryp.

   It lays the foundation for a bigger story down the road - one that has world-shaking potential. Recommended!

Grade: B+

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Dan Dare #2

   I enjoyed the first issue of the new Dan Dare series, and the second issue offers more of the same high adventure and alien menace.

   The first issue ended with Dan wishing for a new challenge - and he may regret that thought, as a giant alien starship invades our galaxy and destroys one of Saturn's moons!

   Dan and his partners in adventure - Digby and Peabody - rocket to intercept the ship and try to learn more about it - but they receive an unfriendly welcome, and then meet someone who might be a new ally.

   The mystery of the alien invaders is rolling out slowly, but it's building nicely.

   With terrific art by Alberto Foche and a strong script by Peter Milligan, this series continues to carry on the highly-regarded traditions of the original series.

   Recommended!

Grade: A-

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Marvel's Movies Rated (So Far)

   My friends were debating how we rate the Marvel movies. We never agree with the posted lists (and on the Internet, there are many lists to choose from), so we decided to make our own lists - and here's mine.  

   (EDIT: The only Marvel Comics-based movies included here are the ones made by Marvel Studios - as El Vox points out in the comments, there are many other great movies from other studios.)

   Your mileage may vary, but here's how I rate the Marvel Studios movies: 

17. The Incredible Hulk - Shaky CGI, a blah story and a mindless slugfest at the end. Not terrible, but not great.

16. Iron Man 2 - This one had lots of potential and some nice moments, but the resolution was weak.

15. Iron Man 3 - Only marginally better than the second IM film. As much as I like Ben Kingsley, he was largely wasted here for a gag.

14. Thor 2: The Dark World - Pretty bleak, with some solid Thor / Loki moments. The bad guy was forgettable (and a waste of a terrific actor).

13. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 - Its only real sin was not being as good as the excellent first film. And Mantis was largely wasted.

12. Ant-Man - I enjoyed this one a lot - the second-funniest Marvel film yet. 

11. Doctor Strange - Again, I liked it a lot, but it suffered a bit from origin-itis. Lots of ground to cover.

10. Spider-Man: Homecoming - Love Holland in the role, it was lots of fun, but maybe needed a little less Tony Stark content.

9. Thor - This one has some shaky moments, but seeing the pantheon brought to life (including Odin, the Warriors Three, Sif, Loki and the Destroyer) and the redemption / resurrection sequence - all added up to a solid favorite for me.

8. Avengers: Age of Ultron - There's a lot to like here, but it was a just a bit too bloated and dark to meet expectations. Still, lots of awesome.

7. Thor: Ragnarok - A fun romp but a lot of death for a movie that's supposed to be funny.

6. Captain America: The First Avenger - A terrific period piece and a really strong film. Loved it, and whooped aloud when the Howlers appeared.

5. Captain America: Winter Soldier - A heck of a political thriller - a solid story and some great twists. Shows why Cap is Marvel Studio's greatest hero.

4. Iron Man - A wonderful self-contained gem that gave the whole Marvel movie monster its start. (If you love Marvel's movies, remember this: if this film had flopped, we probably wouldn't have seen any more of them.)

3. Captain America: Civil War - Heroes duking it out (with good cause), some genuine surprises and Ant-Man turning into Giant-Man (which also got a whoop out of me). 

2. Guardians of the Galaxy - Just a heck of a romp from beginning to end - you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll believe a raccoon can fly! Great soundtrack!

1. The Avengers - A near-perfect superhero film, with amazing battles, lots of humor and action, characters you care about, and a powerful finish. Best use of the Hulk (although Ragnarok may get the title now) - love the "I'm always angry" sequence - and the final confrontation with Loki and the Hulk.