JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS DVD
Directed by: Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery Written by: Dwayne McDuffie Reviewed by: superheroOK, so let’s get this out of the way first. THE SPECTRE short on this release is FANTASTIC! In all honesty I think that this short is possibly the best thing that the WB super-hero animation crew has ever done if not one of the best that WB animation has done period. Any animated film that tries to mimic music cues from Goblin’s soundtrack for “Dawn of the Dead” is just awesome in my book. To THE SPECTRE short and to Joaquim Dos Santos (director of THE SPECTRE) I just have to say: more of this please. This is the sort of thing that I can get behind. This is worth the purchase price alone.
Unfortunately I can’t really say that same thing for JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS. Oh, I won’t say this entry into the DC Animated super-hero verse is bad per se. I actually really loved the character design and color palette of the thing. But I do have to say I was really pretty disappointed with it overall. I mean, there was just so much potential there and I think it was just wasted away on an average ol’ super slugfest that lasted seventy six minutes. If I wanted that I would just pop in SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES and watch that over again. Oh, actually, I wouldn’t because I hated SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES.
I’m not saying that I hated this but…it certainly is tepid. I’ll admit, maybe it was my own expectations that set me up for disappointment but I’ve enjoyed so many of Warner Brother’s super-hero animated films that I was hoping for something a little bit more than heroes meet bad guys, heroes and bad guys fight, heroes win. That’s pretty much what goes on here and it’s a lot of what we’ve seen before. Nothing all that new. Nothing all that different. A lot of the same.
There are so many ideas that could have come from this but they’re kind of frittered away. Superman and Batman meet their alternate universe selves and it’s just like, “Oh, hey, so should we fight or what?” There’s absolutely no character development here. You’re telling me than none of the Justice League want to know anything about their alternate universe counterparts? How they came into being? How did they take over the world? Why did they go bad when “our” JLA went good? There are so many great avenues this story could go down and none of them are explored. Hell, we don’t even learn one real fact about any of The Crime Syndicate except for the part about them being bad. Now if that isn’t the definition of a cardboard cutout villain I don’t know what is. And don’t even get me started on the alternate universe Lex Luthor. For someone who’s been able to outfox powerhouses like The Crime Syndicate he sure comes off as a bore. I found myself longing for the Luthor of “our” earth to get out of prison just so I could see a characterization of Lex Luthor that was compelling in some way.
You would think that with something as interesting as the concept of parallel earths that the brains at WB animation would come up with something more…I dunno…interesting? But they don’t and it’s disappointing. I mean, maybe it would have been less so if this crew hadn’t done something far more exciting with the concept in the old Justice League TV series with their “Justice Lords” arc. Of course they had a whole season to play that out but with only seventy six minutes maybe they couldn’t do much more than have people fight. Maybe there just wasn’t enough time to develop any of the characters. Maybe there just wasn’t enough story to come up with something other one of the lamest villain motivations I’ve ever seen. Maybe there just wasn’t enough time for anything really out of the box which is what something with the words “DC” and “Crisis” should strive for. Oh, who am I kidding…DC stopped having any respectability for any type of Crisis ages ago. It’s too bad it seems like DC Animated seems to have as well.
But still…that SPECTRE short…that kicked ass. Discovered as a babe in an abandoned comic book storage box and bitten by a radioactive comic fan when he was a teenager, superhero is actually not-so mild mannered sometime designer & cartoonist, Kristian Horn of Los Angeles, California. He's been an @$$hole for three years. Some of his work can be seen at www.kristianhorn.com and check out his blog at www.parttimefanboy.com.
DARK WOLVERINE #83
Writers: Daniel Way & Marjorie Liu Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: KletusCasadyI hate Daken. The end. I don’t hate him being a player in the Marvel Universe but it bothers me that every time things are moving slowly for a particular superhero, then all of a sudden that hero has a child. It happened to Superman with Chris, the orphan from the Phantom Zone, who ages quicker than Fergie in HD. It happened to the damn Hulk with Skaar on a different planet and I’m pretty sure he has two illegitimate children now! It happened to Batman with Damien, where apparently Batman is even susceptible to being slipped a roofie and secretly had sex with, only to find out years later on Maury that he IS the Baby’s daddy, thus making him the father of an annoying/dangerous kid trained by assassins. Honestly, I’m starting to like Damien a little more, he mixes things up with Dick (must…not…make ….joke…) and the Batman & Robin dynamic wouldn’t be the same right now if he was a regular “good” Robin. Daken is the well educated, bratty, identity stealing, Muramasa blade infused, X-men defeating, almost Bulleye kissing, mohawk and tribal tattoo having son of Wolverine and he just rubs me the wrong way but I suppose he’s purposely written that way. I actually have no problem with him as a character; I just wish he wasn’t related to Wolverine. Also, Daken had no business being the one who killed Punisher; I mean didn’t Punisher fight Wolverine and survive? Not that it wasn’t a good fight but Daken is a newbie, wet behind the ears even and has no place killing a living legend. But his comic, up until this issue, has been pretty solid.
Daken isn’t really like Wolverine at all except for the claws and the healing. His approaches to situations are a lot more cerebral compared to Wolverine. Wolverine’s response to Norman Osborn would be to cut his head off and be done with it, while Daken’s approach is to play along, all the while corrupting everything from the inside because well…it seems like fun to him. Daken is like that kid in school that’s really smart but instead of blazing through every test with ease, he decides it would be a lot more rewarding to torment the teacher by way of laser pointer or the calculator watch that can turn the TV on and off. This effect is played out heavily in this series to comedic results. Daken & Bullseye’s interactions are by far the best because Daken fucks with Bulleye just to piss him off, even going so far as to pretend to be attracted to him just to throw Bullseye that much further off his game. I’m not thrilled about this book but the Dark Wolverine stories have just enough intrigue to keep me interested in what happens next. The cliffhanger from the last issue had me drooling for the next issue mostly because I was like “How could he do that when we are only on SIEGE #2?” I will say the answer to that question was really really disappointing, I wanted more and I got the VANILLA SKY answer (Don’t worry it’s not as boring). This issue was really weird and not in the Al Yankovic kind of way. I had a hard time figuring out this issue (which may have been the point) but with all the circular talking a particular set of characters were doing, I was left with a lot more questions than answers. Which I guess is good for a comic but I wanted my earlier questions answered before I started getting more and now I have too many questions and my biggest question is “Do I care enough to continue reading this comic?”
This is not the best issue of DARK WOLVERINE that I have read; in fact it might be the worst which doesn’t mean its bad its just not as good as the previous issues. This is mostly because we no longer are seeing Daken tormenting the rest of the DARK AVENGERS as we are now in SIEGE mode and the things I originally liked about this series aren’t really being explored anymore. In fact, I thought the way this series would go would be that Daken would end up imploding the Dark Avengers and Norman Osborne would crack thus ending DARK REIGN. But alas it is event time and I guess that takes precedence over…well…everything. The writing isn’t going to blow your mind but its pretty ok and it does a good job of tying into the events of SIEGE #2 (Specifically the part where Thor fries Daken like a crispy Tater Tot which I will be eating soon as I leave work). The artwork took a while for me to get used to; it’s like if Pete Woods and Stuart Immonen had an illegitimate child on another planet only to learn that he had followed them back to earth to challenge their artistic prowess. If you like Daken, I guess you probably already have this book and have no need for me to tell you to do so. If you don’t like Daken, call me and we’ll get a drink and plot his downfall. Seriously, if you don’t like him don’t pick this up because you’ll only fall further into Daken hate and hate breeds revenge and revenge only leads to the Dark Side. Plus, in about two months I doubt there will be much room in the Heroic Age for someone like Daken unless X-Force hunts him down and kills him.
Writer: Jason Aaron Artist: Danijel Zezelj Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeThere’s something about the occasional one and done in a book like this that can really pull back the reins, so to speak, to give the reader a breather and give some extra perspective. Some of my favorite single issues of all time come from books like this that work inside the premise of the overall theme of the series and dedicate twenty-two pages to a distilled version of it, like “Heartbreak Sunny Side Up” from 100 BULLETS, or “The Yahweh Dance” out of LUCIFER. Jason Aaron and guest artist Danijel Zezelj’s tale “Listening to the Earth Turn” continues this great tradition.
I’ve long professed my love of this series now because of how much it reminds me of THE WIRE, no doubt the greatest TV show I’ve ever viewed. The way that show took all aspects of life in the city setting of Baltimore and made it come alive and emphasize the greater themes of the show was downright brilliant and that is a skill that SCALPED excels at as well, as this issue exemplifies. The focus of this issue is on an elderly couple, Mance and Hazel, who are deliberate “exiles” outside of the Prairie Rose Reservation. They live by themselves, they live off the land and what they can harvest and store from it, and they live for each other. Try as they might it may not be enough.
What it comes down to with this is the emotional journey that comes out swinging through Aaron’s obvious writing talents. The issue starts off with the couple out in the wastes, in some sort of peril to give the proper hint of foreboding before it shifts to Mance working the land and internally commenting on the way of the land and life on the outskirts of the Rez. A shift in perspective to his wife Hazel and the situation immediately becomes dire; they both are ailing, they lack for food in their stores and the winter is going to be harsh. The first words of hers in this comic are “It ain’t enough” and they are downright haunting.
Aaron and Zezelj just work masterfully from there. The way they unfold Mance and Hazel’s story is beautiful in how they manage the tone and the emotions that they are feeling. Determination, love, hope, despair -- all of these emotions are just the start of an absolute roller coaster of a journey in twenty-two pages. I would not expect anything less from this series. Thankfully -- because I do not think my heart could take it anymore -- this issue did not end as direly as I’ve come to live with when it comes to this book. Tragedy after tragedy will keep the story arcs going, but hope makes the heart grow fonder, and this issue was some much needed hope given the darkness of the last issue. Again, like THE WIRE and Baltimore, it can’t always be dark clouds over the hellhole that the Rez has become. This is excellent material overall and further indicative of just why this is one of the absolute best comics on the stand. Kudos to all involved.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a Blogger Account where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.
SIMPSONS COMICS #161
Writer: Patric M. Verrone Artist: Various Publisher: Bongo Comics Reviewer: WilliamI’ve actually been reading the SIMPSONS COMICS since around issue #145 or so, when I first noticed a section at my local comic book shop devoted to TV/cartoon related comics. It was here that I also discovered other great TV comics to read, such as the FUTURAMA comics and the occasional Warners Bros. cartoon comics.
As with most SIMPSONS fan out there I’ve noticed a big decline in the quality of the episodes nowadays, especially since the producers began focusing nearly every episode towards a guest-starring celebrity. One has to only look at the earlier years to see just how great some of them really were. Like that episode where Lisa needed braces and Homer inadvertently became head of his union, or where Homer goes to space due to an everyman type of NASA program. Even middle years episodes had their moments, such as that great episode where Frank Grimes was first introduced.
The point is that the later years remain difficult to hold up to the aforementioned ones. And while I get the idea behind continuously centering episodes to guest celebrities (after all, a celebrity name will always be a draw), IMO the story remains sacrificed because there’s only so far that it can go based upon said celebrity’s attributes (age, sex, history, talent, etc). It can still work though if the episode is focused enough (that Dustin Hoffman episode comes to mind), or if the guest spot truly is a cameo (that Mickey Rooney cameo in the Radioactive Man movie episode is a great example), but most of the time it doesn’t.
In any case it remains a breath of fresh air to read these SIMPSONS comics, as these issues do not have to worry about tailoring their storylines towards the latest guest star. On top of that there’s usually 3 or 4 great little stories involved, so no one story outlives its own stay. There are however “themes” frequently associated within each issue, such as this one focusing on Springfield enjoying the world of cyberspace yet again. Writer Patric M. Verrone nicely brings every major SIMPSONS character into play here, with some fan favorite side-characters like Comic Book Guy, Professor Frink, Martin Prince, Lenny & Carl, and others included into each mini-story without it feeling forced. What helps too is that if you can imagine the character’s TV voices as you read this comic, it almost feels like a TV episode itself. The puns were great, the little side jokes were funny, the storylines nicely made sense within the world of Springfield, everything works here.
The various artists do a great job too, making each character flawlessly look like their TV counterpart. It was surprising to read that there were no less than 5 artists within this issue (one for each part), as the smooth visual transitioning between each story is absolutely flawless.
I heavily recommend grabbing a copy of these SIMPSONS comics if you’re a fan of the franchise. It’s a nice alternative if you’re getting tired of the latest TV episodes, and as an added bonus you’ll always get to see a whole plethora of ads for other SIMPSONS memorabilia. It’s a very nice way to see all the cool stuff the SIMPSONS franchise has out there.
BATMAN & ROBIN # 9
Writer: Grant Morrison Artist: Cameron Stewart Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Optimous Douche“ttt!” With one little verbal tick, Morrison was able to quell my reservations about the longevity of Damian Wayne’s tenure as the newest Boy Wonder. After all, as fans we collectively bludgeoned the last douche bag that donned the circus tights. Why would we tolerate yet another misstep into a Robin that so drastically veers from the success stories of Dick Grayson and Tim Drake? I certainly was not willing to give the pass simply because he was.
For me the answer was simple: Jason was a stereotype. He was inspired in a time where latch key kids were on the rise and attitude came in the form of the one-dimensional after-school-special version of “troubled.” He was essentially all-anger, all-the-time, with very few virtuous traits to counter-balance the whining – well, until the last panel of his life (his first life – not his new form).
Aside from having mad skills from being raised around Grand Pappy’s assassins, Damian has something else--confidence. His arrogance comes from the surety that he is the king cock of the Robin walk and the heir apparent to the Batman throne one day. Plus Damian has that “tttt,” which always introduces a monologue or one-liner that breaks him out of the comic page to act as a narrator pointing out the ridiculousness of a world without Bruce Wayne and the sheer disdain he has for a world with Dick as the caped crusader. Honestly (and not surprisingly), my favorite moments of the BATMAN & ROBIN series are when Dick and Damian are at one another’s throats. For this very reason this issue was my favorite of the “Blackest Knight” story arc, since it was the first issue we see Dick back from London and Damian out of his wheelchair from his spine fracturing accident a few issues prior. Sadly though, this reunion was not until the last few panels of this issue and the only time we see the new dynamic duo together during this arc. Prior to this moment, we get smatterings of Damian and whole heaping helpings of my least favorite characters in the Batman universe: Knight and Squire. Seriously, I would rather choke down a blood pudding and pubic hair scone over this British import.
Yes, “Blackest Knight” has been my least favorite arc to date, in what has been a book that I can only call phenomenal. I don’t fault anyone for this; for every fan like myself that hates Knight and Squire, I’m sure there are two others that love them. I would never be so douchey to admit that my taste is the taste of an entire fanbase. Morrison even did an admirable job of keeping one issue in this arc totally focused on action, so all of us stupid Americans wouldn’t get tripped around too many Eliza Doolittle turns of phrase. “Right guv’ner -- show us your laz’ris pit.”
Morrison was even kind enough to deliver a fairly compelling story arc even though it wasn’t my cup of earl gray. Dick thinks he has the corpse of Batman and the location of a Lazarus Pit below London. Naturally Dick skips across the pond in an attempt to resurrect this corpse in the frothy life-giving goodness of the pit. As we all know though this is not Batman, since Batman didn’t die, but rather became a withered corpse and was shuttled through time (that is what happened, right? I feel like I’m making it up.) No, this was a clone that when resurrected speaks in much the same pattern of a Bizzaro world dweller (minus the double negatives though). How Dick discovers this was not the real Batman was even damn clever. The clone fights to kill. There was a great clever nod to Batwoman’s (yeah she’s here as well – although I’m not really sure what purpose she served when all was said and done) sexuality when Dick hits on her. The entire fight between Damian and Bizarro Batman was well played and I give Morrison huge props for using a wheelchair as a weapon. Cleverness truly abounds, but I still just can’t get past a guy honoring Batman by dressing like Robocop and his Court Jester sidekick. My loss I guess.
Despite my disdain this story-arc and issue are rife with important tee ups for the resurrection of Bruce Wayne. Since the corpse believed to be Bruce Wayne was in fact a doppelganger, Tim Drake just went from being an optimistic Pollyanna to a pillar of faith for believing Bruce to be alive. Dick will have many mea culpas in upcoming issues as I’m guessing we’ll see a return of Bruce Wayne right around the same time Nolan introduces his villain roster for the next Batman film (c’mon DC marketing, don’t disappoint me). I believe this is Cameron Stewart’s last issue; if so, a fond farewell sir. The splash page where you had Bizzaro Batman try to actually make rational sense of Bruce Wayne’s mind was simply comics done right.
In the end analysis I wish I could have looked past my prejudices because this was a well balanced story-arc with the right blend of action and dialogue to keep readers hooked. I just hate hate hate any international version of Batman. Please other countries come up with your own superheroes – please. Optimous is lonely and needs friends. Even virtual ones will fill the gaping hole, join him on Facebook or he will cry like a newborn kitten.
Writer: Rob Williams Art: Fabiano Neves Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Reviewer: Mr. Pasty1987 was an incredible year for movies. Oh sure, you had WALL STREET and DIRTY DANCING, THE UNTOUCHABLES and THE LOST BOYS. Heck, you even had that crummy EMPIRE OF THE SUN flick by some no-name director who quickly dropped out of cinema. But 1987 will live in infamy for me because it produced three action movies that are easily in my top ten of all time. First there was LETHAL WEAPON, followed by PREDATOR just three months later. Then came ROBOCOP. ROBO-FUCKING-COP. Welcome to America Mr.Verhoeven, I hope you enjoy your stay.
What is the measure of a great film? Well, if Dynamite Entertainment tries to convert it into a graphic novel and completely fucks it up, I’d say you have a bona fide classic on your hands. That’s why I passed on issue number one of this series. After what they did to THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, I just couldn’t bear to see another prized memory ripped out of my historical womb and crushed between a pair of sterile salad tongs. As it turns out, it was my loss.
I’ll go out of my way to defecate on Dynamite when they get it wrong, so it’s only fair that I give them glowing praise when they’re right. While nothing could ever compare to the 1987 classic by the same name, ROBOCOP the comic book is a worthy successor. It doesn’t try to be TALES OF ROBOCOP or some other bizarre alternate universe re-tread; instead it simply inserts itself after the magic of movie number one and before the soiled maxi pad that was ROBOCOP 2. Trivia for fellow celluloid geeks: The sequel to ROBOCOP was directed by Irvin Kershner, who also directed the sequel to STAR WARS. Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum. Anyway, ROBOCOMIC works because writer Rob Williams fully understands the source material. The movie was about more than just robot cowboys in a futuristic wild west, thanks largely in part to Verhoeven’s demented (but delectable) satire. Williams uses it both sparingly and effectively and doesn’t forget that this is a story with heart. I was impressed by his restraint. A lesser writer would have likely crammed these pages with gun fu and robot carnage. There is plenty of action here but it’s obvious that Williams is a student of the game. Kudos.
Joining him in my accolades is Fabiano Neves, but that should come as no surprise. What did surprise me is how well he differentiates his art between titles. I wasn’t sure he could do Detroit Rock Gritty the way it needed to be done for this story, primarily because he’s so good at making RED SONJA one of the most bangable babes in the comic book universe. Like Williams, he understands the mood here and keeps the tone proportionate to the narrative. Dark, but never muddied down with a heavy brush -- and I popped for what he did with the ED-209’s. Yeah, they’re here. And if you like what they did in the movie, you’ll love what they can do in the comic (no, they still can’t walk stairs).
ROBOCOP #2 is a risky venture into an already established universe, but the gamble pays off because the captain and first mate of this ship are no strangers to the territory. You can feel their excitement throughout the story and that translates to a perfect example of what comic book reading should be: a kick-ass time. Give this series a look, it won’t disappoint.
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MARVEL TREASURY SPECIAL – 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
Written and illustrated by Jack Kirby (based on the film by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick) Reviewed by Stones ThrowMarvel Treasury specials are huge oversized comics, the sort that you’re not likely to see in a comic shop today. Finding this edition of Jack Kirby’s 2001 in the window of a charity shop was a moment of divine providence; I had to go in immediately and buy it. Jack Kirby is my favorite maker of comic books; 2001 was for a long time my favorite film (now it’s KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS) and Kubrick one of film’s best directors.
The comic offers a rare opportunity to see one master of his art interpreting another. Kirby was working with Kubrick’s themes even before Kubrick made 2001. He defined the nascent superhero genre and the first heroes he created were reborn men: people like the Guardian and Captain America, ordinary souls transformed into a higher, more heroic plane of existence—unlike the alien Superman or human Batman. Then he created most of Marvel’s distinctive characters, giving us Iron Man and the Hulk and the X-Men and the Silver Surfer—modern day Prometheuses.
What about Stan Lee? Well, I wouldn’t want to diminish his contribution, because every comic book artist needs a good editor and Stan Lee was that editor. If snappy dialogue and wit is important to you then Lee was good at that, too. But Kirby was the impetus-driving genius. Like the Lennon and McCartney of Marvel comics—or Coleridge and Wordsworth. Just look at Stan Lee’s work without Steve Ditko or Jack Kirby.
Kirby returned to DC where he created the even more startling NEW GODS. There’s more, too—his late-period run on BLACK PANTHER and THE CELESTIALS at Marvel, clearly showing the 2001 influence. Kirby was forecasting new forms of life and experience to correspond with the 20th century’s new technology for a long time. Look at Reed Richards or T’Challa’s wonderful inventions—the wizards of their day, able to conjure up anything for any purpose.
An adaptation of 2001, in oversized form, allows his awesome visual imagination to let rip. The book is bigger than a square foot and Kirby utilises the size to its full—double page spreads, page long panels, men walking across them, forms and shapes filling them up. There’s a lot of his famous collages, too. The coloring is elegant and psychedelic—not overbearing.
2001 is pure Kirby—not filtered and refined through superhero conventions or monthly comic books. It makes you regret he didn’t do more longform work, and that he never got to do a long run on THE HULK. Maybe then he’d be better remembered, looked at by people outside the comic book world.
I recommend this adaptation to any fan of comic books or science fiction—or literature and art in general--though it might be a struggle finding a copy.