(Click title to go directly to the review)
THE POSTHUMAN PROJECT Motion Picture (2015)
EMPIRE: UPRISING #1
SHERLOCK HOLMES VS. HARRY HOUDINI #5
THE FLY: OUTBREAK #2
CHASTITY: LIFE/DEATH Vol.1
LADY MECHANIKA: TABLET OF DESTINIES #5
THE POSTHUMAN PROJECT Motion Picture (2015)Director: Kyle Roberts
Writers: Matthew Price & Sterling Gates
Studio: Reckless Abandonment Pictures
This Thursday many of you will be in line, waiting to be the first of your friends to see THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. Marvel has dominated the comic book and superhero genre for the past several years now and I suspect that won’t change come May 1st. There’s plenty of speculation as to why the MCU is able to create hit after hit while DC Comics continues to be inconsistent at best. I’m not going to really delve into this debate, but more throw out an idea. Maybe Marvel has just adapted their guys into more likeable (or love to hate) characters.
This is a concept that indie superhero flicks can gather around. You’re never gonna have the power of the Mouse behind you to shell out wads of cash. RDJ ain’t gonna swagger onto your set. So without seizure inducing graphics and big stars, what’s an indie filmmaker to do? Write a good script, that’s it.
THE POSTHUMAN PROJECT is written by Matthew Price & Sterling Gates, that latter having worked on several DC projects such as TALES OF THE SINESTRO CORPS, SUPERGIRL, and WORLD’S FINEST. Gates has a history of exploring the early lives or origins of various DC personalities and it is this focus on character that makes the screenplay work. THE POSTHUMAN PROJECT is a superhero origin story ala John Hughes. At least, that is when the film is at its best.
All of the promotional material I received made mention of the influential director, and one poster for the film even has the teens from POSTHUMAN posing in the manner of “The Breakfast Club”. You are making quite a statement, taking quite a risk, when you compare your work to the master of adolescent-portraying cinema. But director Kyle Roberts is rather on the money when he says that "this film is tonally influenced by John Hughes movies of the 1980s and Marvel’s X-MEN.”
THE POSTHUMAN PROJECT follows high school senior Denny Burke and his friends as they near graduation. Thank god these kids realize that high school isn't the best years of their lives, because for most of them the last four have sucked. Denny's younger brother, Archie, is bullied for more than just his name. Gwen Black has had to deal with the stereotypical abusive stepfather and must complete summer school before she can escape him. Then Denny, who use to be big man on campus, injured himself on a rock climbing incident and lost his girlfriend. Yet somehow these kids are able to look on the bright side of things and decide to celebrate early, going on one last camping/rock climbing trip before the big ol' ceremony. What they find upon the top of Mt. Dominic, however, is far more dangerous than what any normal collection of high school caricatures can handle.
When the film is focusing on Denny and the gang, it sings. The banter may not be as seamless as that of an 80s teen flick, but there are plenty of jokes that work. Talent may not be spread equally amongst the teenagers, but particularly actors Josh Bonzie and Lindsay Sawyer are able to bring the comedy or gravitas when needed. The moments where the filmmakers let the kids just be kids, those are what make this film worth seeing.
There are other great parts as well. Jason Leyva brings maniacal glee to the role of the creepy uncle...poor choice of words...uncle/mad scientist. His right hand man, played by Rett Terrell, would fit well amongst the rank of H.Y.D.R.A. agents. But these two, though their characters are well developed and believable, do not seem to be in the same movie as the kids.
THE POSTHUMAN PROJECT has in common a major issue I had with THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 there seem to be multiple movies playing at once. On one hand you've got the coming of age dramedy, on the other is a way over-the-top cheesy superhero flick filled with cliché and clunky dialogue that you would expect from a Syfy monster flick. Both work, just not together. At least you can say that there is something for everyone, because the film throws everything at us but the kitchen sink.
It features many of the major tropes from both genres, clearly showing off Roberts' love and understanding of comics. If you pick which storyline and tonal directional you prefer, ignoring the rest, there is an unpolished gem in there for you. The script, written by Price and DC Comics' Sterling Gates, is rough but clearly has potential. I'd like to think of THE POSTHUMAN PROJECT like 2003's SAW or 1994's BOTTLE ROCKETS. Yes, I got those dates right. I'm talking about the short films that laid the groundwork for better feature length movies. THE POSTHUMAN PROJECT does run at ninety minutes, but with its major pacing issues an easy fix would have been to make this film borderline feature length.
Usually what happens to an indie pic when it is remastered with studio assistance is a big change in visual quality. But if Kyle Roberts were to remake THE POSTHUMAN PROJECT, he wouldn't need to waste the increased budget on better-looking images. You gotta give it up to Red Digital Camera; they are the independent filmmaker's dream when it comes to easy to make higher quality shots. With Roberts editing and Samuel Calvin behind the camera, they are able to pull off more impressive, blockbuster-worthy shots compared to the static, in desperate need of better lighting look common to lower budget filmmaking.
The lack of funds becomes more and more apparent as the film comes to an end. The movie feels rushed, almost as if multiple shots and scenes were edited last minute. Just as I was getting impressed by the creative use of the superpowers, the story blazed right through them. I mean, the digital effects actually work without a big post-production house behind them and yet we barely get enough time to enjoy them, as the film starts late and ends early.
THE POSTHUMAN PROJECT doesn't feature any big names, really, in front of or behind the camera. It wasn't shot by some USC graduate with daddy’s money. This film was a personal project, for better or worse. You can feel the passion but see the flaws that come without support from above. Keep this in mind when you go to see it.
You can find THE POSTHUMAN PROJECT on all major VOD platforms beginning May 1st. For more information about the film and whre to pre-order, visit www.posthumanmovie.com.
Lyzard is Lyz Reblin, a graduate student at the University of Texas pursuing a master's degree in Media Studies... which is just a fancy way of saying she plays a lot video games, watches far too many horror films, and then tries to pass it all off as "research."
EMPIRE: UPRISING #1Storytellers: Mark Waid & Barry Kitson
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Masked Man
Back in 2000, Mark Waid, Barry Kitson and some friends set-up their own comicbook company, Gorilla Comics. Waid and Kitson knocked out a couple issues of EMPIRE, then discovered how frick'n hard it is to run a comic company- and moved EMPIRE over to DC Comics. The series wrapped up after eight total issues (or #0-6 by DC count) in 2004, and since then Waid and Kitson have been trying to find the time to make sequel, luckily for us they finally did, this time with IDW's help.
To bring people up to speed, EMPIRE is basically the story of a supervillain (ala Dr. Doom) finally taking over the world. After killing off any hero who might oppose him, this is what happens next. As Darkseid once said in an episode of the Superfriends (oh, the things I remember) “The probably with building kingdoms is, that they tend to get taken over.” So while Golgoth is the unforgiving master of the world, he still has to deal with the typical rebel forces and traitors in his very own government. Not being totally evil, his world is a utopia- for those who fit in mind you. And he is also a single father to his princess daughter, Delfi. Whom discovered just how evil her father was in the first series. Spoiler time folks- Well, Delfi doesn't make it through the first mini-series, and EMPIRE: UPRISING picks up one year after her passing.
So with this new series Golgoth is still in charge, and those around him continue to work for him or in some cases against him. Although Golgoth, while still a major bad@$$, seems to has lost a little of his self confidences. What does this mean for the future of the Empire, well, I'm guessing the word 'uprising' has something to do with it.
The bulk of this issue is an assault on Golgoth by rebel forces during an important memorial for the Empire. This gives us some good action, helps bring new readers up to speed (although, text boxes identifying all of Golgoth's Ministers would have been nice). Honestly, there is nothing particularly awesome in this first issue, but it is a good starting point for more super-powered political drama. And just as Waid has proven he can do well with his own Superman in IRREDEEMABLE, and Lex Luthor in INCORRUPTIBLE, EMPIRE and now EMPIRE: UPRISING proves he can do just as well with his own Dr. Doom.
Barry Kitson, of course still proves he is one of the best artist in the comicbook industry. He can be a little stiff with his figures at time. But his great style and storytelling make his comics a pleasure to read. Case in point, this issue has a lot of gore to it, but Kitson handles it beautifully. Giving the you the brutality of the scenes, without it becoming gore-porn like Jacen Burrows' CROSSED.
Old fans of EMPIRE should totally be digging this, and new fans should have no fear of it. As Mark Waid knows how to write stories with lots of continuity and still make them accessible to new readers (unlike many current 'top writers' who can't even bother tell you what happened in the last issue). With a great concept and good execution, EMPIRE: UPRISING is the nice return of an independent comic by two fan-fav pros.
SHERLOCK HOLMES VS. HARRY HOUDINI #5Writer: Anthony del Col & Conor McCreery
Artist: Carlos Furuzono
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
SHERLOCK HOLMES VS. HARRY HOUDINI took their final bow last week. It was an issue that started out with a bang (literally) but ended on a flat note.
Last we left the dysfunctional duo Holmes had, by order of Rasputin, shot himself in the head. Houdini can’t believe what just happened, but even he can’t deny that a man bleeding from the head and without a pulse isn’t dead. Rasputin begins to gloat and, like all megalomaniac villains, reveal his evil plan. Rasputin is seeking vengeance on London for the glory of Russia and will begin the new uprising by setting off multiple bombs throughout the city, killing Holmes and Houdini’s friends and loved ones.
For the most part the concluding issue does exactly what a final book should do. It provides us with plenty of action, a few answers, and an ending that leaves room for more stories to come. But too many of those answers are smoke and mirrors. How Holmes returns from the dead is explained well, which makes the rest of the reveals underwhelming. There’s a reason why magicians hold their tricks up their sleeves, because the truth can too often ruin the illusion. Rasputin’s plan is problematic for it being both unbelievable and too simple. His whole hypnotism trick is one that should have been solved by the great minds issues ago, while the rest of his paranormal powers are never given full explanations.
At least this issue gave us a glimpse of how well Holmes and Houdini work together once they put their differences aside. If the series is to continue hopefully they will remain powerful allies and not slip back into stubborn bickering.
SHERLOCK HOLMES VS. HARRY HOUDINI #5 shows us what a great concept the pairing is. Throughout the series, writers del Col & McCreery were able to provide us with moments that exhibited how a battle of wits can be just as exciting as any knock-down, drag-out fight. The conceit to the series worked, but the antagonist fell short. We’ve seen Sherlock Holmes fight against so-called magic and while bringing in a famed magician and debunker like Houdini should have made the concept a bit more fresh, you need an interesting villain to do so. Instead, we ended up with a stereotypical, flat characterization seen time and time again with the crazed Russian.
For a comic so insistent on presenting readers with something unique, its ending was nothing more than the preparation for an encore performance.
THE FLY: OUTBREAK #2Writer: Brandon Seifert
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Adaptations can always be a sketchy route, especially when dealing with classics. Even when the creators are self proclaimed ‘hard-core’ fans, mediums don’t always always translate smoothly and it almost becomes unbearable to watch as a loved story falls into a most unfortunate death. Unfortunately, IDW’s recent release continuing Cronenburgh’s The Fly II falls alongside this train of thought. Although the comic isn’t necessarily a complete write off, it does fall short of its film predecessor.
The Fly: Outbreak follows the son of deceased scientist Seth Brundle, Martin. Now, having assumed the position his father had at Bartok Industries Martin is looking for a way to rid himself of his mutated insect genes, and in a most unfortunate way, has. Martin has discovered that by taking his insect genes and replacing them with normal ones from a healthy ‘donor’ he has cured himself, but the mutation itself is simply swapped to another host. In this case, to Bartok.
Continuing the Mary Typhoid theme, the second issue quarantine’s Martin and the rest of the scientific crew to North Brother Island after being infected by Bartok’s splattered insect genes. The facility, another after school special for Martin plays him as the boy genius who ruined everything for everyone, ostracized by his peers and fellow scientists Noelani, Martin’s secretary is the only one who will speak to him. During a lunch session Martin relays to Noelani the symptoms and stages of those infected. While Martin plays it out for her, a guard and a red-headed scientist lurk in the background exhibiting all the signs that Martin speaks of. The very next Noelani shows the very same signs, and as she is tackled down and electrified by Martin he vows to find an actual cure.
The plot itself is well-written and fairly engrossing, but unfortunately the characters themselves lack any real substance and with only four issues to hack and slash through an already established sci-fi, the creative team has quite a load to carry. There are some very heavy sexual themes, a way, I’m assuming to heighten the already morbid story, but falter in that sense.
I wanted to like Outbreak, I really, really did. menton3’s art is absolutely fantastic, with a realistic vibe that resonates colors that of ALIEN, but as horrifyingly beautiful as the art is the characters lack any movement. Scenes where running or throwing or anything active really is plastic and, although has a shine similar to that in 3-D modelling, takes away from the comic.
Overall, THE FLY: OUTBREAK, although a beautiful shell, the interior doesn’t strike any chord and falls into the piles of adaptations that aren't needed.
CHASTITY: LIFE/DEATH Vol.1Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artist: Dave Acosta
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
CHASTITY: LIFE/DEATH is a comic that must be read through the right lens. It cannot be taken seriously nor can it be read just for laughs. While there are moments of humor, they aren’t laugh out loud, but mainly chucklers or a few well-intentioned groaners. On the other hand, the comic also veers into the grotesque as well. The best way to read this volume is as a parody of the original comic series.
The origin story for Chastity Marks has been extensively re-worked since she first appeared in the 90s. This time ‘round Chastity is a young Olympic-bound gymnast who, after suffering a career ending injury, escapes into a world of fantasy. Chastity becomes an utter fan girl for Alyce Stonecliff’s vampire romance series, but soon learns that the line between reality and fiction can easily become blurred. Alyce attacks Chastity after a book signing in New York City, killing Chastity and her entire family. But Chastity doesn’t stay dead. Instead, she turns into a hybrid. Neither vampire nor human, she may be the only one in town capable of killing Stonecliff before she exposes the truth about vampires to the world.
If you’ve read the earlier works of CHASTITY then you know where this is going, but you’re gonna have to wait until the end of issue five to get it. In the meantime, CHASTITY: LIFE/DEATH draws out Chastity’s predicament. It isn’t until the fifth issue that we find out that Chastity is a hybrid and what that even means. The middle books switch between Chastity struggling with her transformation, Alyce getting into more trouble, and the elder vampires who want to get rid of her. It’s all well and good. I appreciate getting to dive deeper into the world and it was something I appreciated in my reviews for the first three issues. But upon reading this collection I found that I could do with less side stories and more answers. Too many pages are left in between the obvious hint towards Dr. Lapine’s identity and its reveal, a structural problem found throughout the series.
This is why I would advise taking a look at issue 6 on its own. The story, while referring to events from the previous five issues, stands by itself and showcases the best of the new CHASTITY. Marc Andreyko has Chastity giving her best Deadpool impersonation, breaking the fourth wall every once in a while during her narration. Artist Dave Acosta gives us a disturbing villain, whose character design is utterly creepy and yet you cannot tear your eyes away, plus there is plenty of gore. If you like this book, then the rest of the series is worth picking up.
LADY MECHANIKA: THE TABLET OF DESTINIES #5Writer: M.M. Chen
Artists: Joe Benitez and Martin Montiel
Publisher: Self Published
Reviewer: Masked Man
Joe Benitez's steam punk hero, Lady Mechanika has returned with a brand new adventure! Hopefully he's a little wiser and a little more lucky with this second arc, since the first one took years to finish. To that point, he has gained a writer, M. M. Chen and another artist, Martin Montiel to help keep the quality of the book high, and get it out in a more timely fashion. Because if I haven't expressed this enough before, making a comicbook solo is a helluvalot work!
This new story gets our cyborg hero out of Mechanika City, and into the greater world. As she goes yeti hunting with a bunch of rich snobs, and then off on a search and rescue mission in Africa. All wrapped up in a big Jules Verne sci-fi, 1900's, turn of the century world. To get into the spoilers of the story, our Lady Mechanika's friend Professor Thomsen, is running around deepest, darkest Africa looking for the fabled Tablet of Destinies. Not too surprising with stories like this, he goes missing. Meanwhile, his young granddaughter Winifred, manages to avoid being abducted in London. Winifred then seeks out the help of Lady Mechanika. Who, unfortunately manages to get Winifred abducted anyway! And as we all know, messing with the hero's friends is a good way to piss them off.
Chen manages to craft a really nice first issue, keeping it in the vein of Benitez's steam punk adventure world. Avoiding all the traps of a dull set-up issue, and getting us right into the plot / action. Although he does just enough set-up work here as well. Keeping new readers in mind though, I do wish he made more of a point to point out that Lady Mechanika is a cyborg. Like how the title sequence of the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN points out that Steve Austin is bionic. Without that, there's no good explanation why Mechanika can do the things she can do. Aside from that, this is a great fun issue. Everything you want in a good adventure story and a steam punk one (if you like that, or are just ok with it). Nothing too original mind you, as always- excution is 'greater than' concept. The dialog is often witty and charming- especially when Mechanika talks with the 'oh so grown-up' giant spectacled Winifred (and no where near as abstract as the comicbook I reviewed on a lovely podcast, recently). So fun and adventure is the name of the game here.
Artwork-wise, Benitez and Montiel crushes it in this first issue. Each page is gorgeous (as any steam punk fan would wish). The storytelling is well done, as both action scenes and dialouge scenes are handled with great care. Hopefully now with Montiel at Benitez's side, deadlines won't hamper the quality of futures issues. Because there is really no point in setting the bar high, if you can't keep it there (like the KEY & PEELE's The Power of Wings video displays so well).
So a very nice start to new story, which is very new readers friendly. Anyone looking for a good adventure book (and is tired of pointless cross-over event fights) should definitely give LADY MECHANIKA: THE TABLET OF DESTINIES a try.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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