Sunday, January 31, 2010

In Other News: 52Eighty Wins International Competition

So In addition to reading comics, graphic novels, watching movies and having literary discussions, I also sing in an organization called the Barbershop Harmony Society.  Within this organization we have two major contests, one during the summer where we crown our international quartet champions, collegiate quartet champions, and chorus champions, typically somewhere in the month of July.  The other is our Mid-Winter convention where the international quartet contest for seniors commences, and the newly installed international youth chorus contest. (must be 30 years old or younger...I'm 28) There were eleven choruses that mainly came out of the states, with a few traveling from overseas.  My chorus is 52Eighty (5,280 feet above) and we came out with a winning score of 83.5%, officially classifying ourselves as an "A" level chorus.

The Story:  52Eighty is based on Denver Colorado and directed by Chris Vaughn and Matt Swann.  Last year, this very chorus competed in this contest and received 2nd.  I was not with them last year seeing as how I was living in Des Moines, Iowa.  However, according to what everyone in the chorus was saying, and from what I heard through the Barbershop grapevine, everyone felt like 52Eighty should have won the entire contest.  So this year the guys were gun-ho about winning, having fun and making themselves proud.

It was a fantastic weekend where I got to see some old friends and acquaintances, as well as some new ones too.  Going into the contest I knew we were going to win, but I was still shocked to hear the announcement made, especially with our scoring average at an 83.5%.  Last summer at the regular international competition, that would have put us in the top twenty with the "big boy" choruses, ranking us at 15th or 16th. Not only did we win it, but we took ourselves to the next level and proved to ourselves and to the barbershopping world that the young guys are here to stay.

Now, even with an 83.5, it's not like we ran away with the competition.  2nd though 4th place were exceptionally close in their scores, with 2nd place receiving an 81, which in my opinion means they all were second place finishers.  The only sad thing on my end of things is, being the last chorus to sing, we didn't get to see any of the other choruses perform, and based on the scores it would have been great to watch.  However, I'm proud of myself and the rest of the guys for our hard work and driven personalities, and I'm glad to have finally done well in this great hobby.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Comic Book Review: Justice Society of America #35

Book Information
Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Travis Moore

Mordru has sent the Society into separate dimensions where they face unique and dangerous tasks that match their personalities.  Dr. Fate lays unconscious in the real world unable to assist his team mates.  What will the Society do to rectify their current predicament?  Will Mordru finally get his revenge on his enemies or will the Society learn from past mistakes? 

My Thoughts
A series of tasks are appointed to each member in which Mordru no doubt thinks them unbeatable.  Why Willingham decided to do this, I have no idea.  Why put the 3rd smartest man in the world in a battle of wits with a sphinx?  We all know it’s going to be no challenge right?  But to make matters worse, not only was it an easy task, but there was no conflict with the beast in any shape or form.  Mr. Terrific smart talks his way out of this fight right at the beginning and the whole string of dialog becomes redundant and contrived, along with the rest of the book.

Willingham attempts to make the story interesting by singling out each member into different worlds that resemble a bit of their personality; however nothing interesting becomes of it all.  Liberty Belle doesn’t actually defeat the multiplying beast, Wildcat never breaks free of his own doing from the giant stuffed animals, Mr. America never actually out runs the pack of wolves, Doctor Mid-Nite stays trapped among the sickened patients, Lighting only meets, but does not fight the electrifying creatures ready to destroy her, and Flash only sinks in the quicksand running from an ever growing swarm of bees.  The only Society member who actually accomplishes anything is Green Lantern in his battle of intelligence and agility against Mordru’s onslaught of raw power.  How are they freed from their dimensional prison?  Dr. Fate sticks his hand inside different boxes and pulls them out.  Plain and simple.  No member learns anything new about themselves nor do they discover any new mysteries involving Mordru or of a future oncoming threat.  If Willingham had at least made each society member beat their individual tasks, then the issue could have been salvageable, but nothing good comes from it.

I truly hate this “hokey” approach Willingham is taking with the Society.  It feels as if the team has split, and the All-Stars are the ones taking things seriously while the other half is joking around and making light of the situation.  This feels cheap and poorly planned and I’m not sure I want to continue picking this title up anymore of Willingham continues to write crappy stories like this.  Grant Morrison writes better stuff for goodness sakes!

The art is fair, although not what it needs to be to help boost the lack in quality writing.  However, Travis Moore does possess a talent that resembles the old style of comic book art, which fits with this title very well.  I could live with having Moore stay with the JSA for a long time, as long as Willingham gets out of dodge!

Piss poor.  Take this opportunity to save $2.99 or spend it on something worthy of your hard earned money.

Rating: 1 out of 10 stars

Next Issue Coming February 24, 2010
The discovery of exactly who was behind the recent attacks on Obsidian and other members of the Justice Society puts the team on the trail of a true Axis of Evil! This means war!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Comic Book Review: Superman Secret Origin #4 (of 6)

Book Information
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank

The world wants to know more about Superman, but all Lex Luthor wants is to portray the newcomer as Earth’s enemy.  As Superman fights his first real enemy, the Parasite, Luthor plans out his dastardly deed in setting up the Man of Steel.

My Thoughts
After finishing this 4th installment of the revamped Superman origin story I asked myself, “what is the secret?”  It’s legitimate question to ask.  The clues aren’t necessarily coming through for me all that well.  Is this new origin story simply DC’s attempt to legitimize Superman’s first years and throw out the corniness that came from the films and Golden age comics?  We’ve received a lot of new twists on certain aspects of his life and a new look at how the Man of Steel views his life on Earth, but what is the secret?  Green Lantern’s Secret origin story at least followed a set of clues that kept us thinking logically about the events, but this series hasn’t given us (the readers) much to work with.

Currently, Johns is running with things we already know.  Johns established that Lois was a bitchy, head strong reporter who can’t stand the thought of Lex Luthor, yet relishes the chance of interviewing him.  We also have the confirmation that Lex Luthor did in fact hate Superman from the start (as if we didn’t know) and puts on a amazing act for the people of Metropolis, acting as its savior.  The Parasite, in addition is given no new realizations unfamiliar to us, was still accidentally exposed to chemicals which changed him to the purple, energy sucking vampire, still had an unrelenting crave for human energy, still wants Superman the most due to his stamina, and remains one of the dumbest villains in Superman’s repertoire.  The only twist that comes along in this issue is Luthor’s speech, claiming Superman to be an enemy of the people and possibly an invader from a different world…but we expected that right?

With all that said, the story in and of itself is well written.  The dialog between characters is strong a flows smoothly, contains very driven character, and gets at the heart of a single individual.  This week, Johns gave a shinning moment to our beloved pal, Jimmy Olsen.  The young photographer is still a dork, however Johns has given Olsen a more mature look, despite all of his freckles.  No more “golly gee” or “gee wilikers” for Jimmy, he’s more of a socially adapted person rather than socially awkward. 

Like I’ve said before, Gary Frank is THE Superman artist.  DC needs to hire Frank forever and keep the artistry that he is bringing to the pages of Superman.  Get rid of Bernard Chang and permanently put Gary Frank on board.  That was one of the creepiest renditions of the Parasite I have ever seen. Frank just keeps on bringing it home! 

This issue is fun to read, but doesn’t really push the story forward into anything new.  Knowing Johns however, it’s possible that this issue contains hidden importance that will be revealed once the final issue hits stores.  My fingers are crossed.

Rating: 5 out of 10 stars

Next Issue Coming March 31st, 2010
Superman versus Metallo – for the first time! Witness the origin of one of Superman's most-feared foes, as an attack by Lex Luthor goes awry and gives birth to the evil of Metallo. Can an inexperienced Man of Steel handle a foe with a heart of Kryptonite? Meanwhile, Lois Lane and Perry White are close to revealing Luthor as the monster that he is – but are they willing to pay for that truth with their lives?

Comic Book Review: Justice League A Cry For Justice #6 (of 7)

Book Information
Written by James Robinson
Art by Scott Clark & Siya Dum

After Prometheus reveals himself under a technological cloak disguising himself as Shazam, he pushes through the oncoming brigade of heroes determined to put a stop to his murderous rampage.  At the cusp of defeat, Donna Troy flies in, almost killing Prometheus.  As the League interrogates their attacker, his evil plot is revealed which is already put into motion.  Can the League save the day before an entire city of people, or will Prometheus finally be victorious and tear the League apart?

My Thoughts
I have never seen a complete turn around in the quality of a storyline more than with this issue.  Every issue, starting with #1, has been less than satisfactory, containing a lot of unneeded dialog as well as boring and confusing plot twists.  With the exception of his work on Superman, this is Robinson’s worst series at DC yet.  However, this issue completely grabbed my attention and kept hold of it with every page turn.  No doubt Robinson was killing time until this climactic and powerful event within this arc.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Prometheus, I’ve always viewed him more as a throw away villain used to fill in dead space in comics.  Robinson has revitalized the villain in ways I couldn’t imagine.  It just goes to show, every idea worth writing about has potential to be great.  The League was helpless against Prometheus’ continual and unending knowledge of their weaknesses; Even Supergirl, the most powerful of the group, was taken down as easy as a pit-bull chomping away at a hummingbird.  This was very refreshing for me to finally see Prometheus used to the maximum potential. 

The story itself was completely satisfying despite the terrible writing in the previous five issues.  The tension and build up of angst was very powerful and worth the few bucks to pay for.  The mystery in this story wasn’t making sense, but this issues helps bring everything to the surface and takes your breath away.  I can’t imagine how Green Arrow must be feeling, especially since his city is already in peril and tumbling to the streets below.  I wonder how Prometheus is making this quake occur and how the League is going to stop it, if at all.

I was sad to see Cascioli taking a leave of absence from this miniseries, even though he will be returning to finish out this series next month.  But Clark was a satisfactory and pleasant substitute for the artistic aspect of the book.  Attempting to continue the great art Cascioli has established, Clark creates a some incredible and clean scenes that pop out at you just as much.  I was a little throw by the strains of blood coming out of Donna Troy’s wrists which distracted me to a certain degree, but Clark is well on his way in establishing himself as one of the better painters in the comic industry. 

A great issue!  I was completely taken by surprise and can’t wait for the final seventh issue to be published. 

Rating: 8.5 out of 10 stars

Next Issue Coming February 24, 2010
This is the big one! After the catastrophes seen in issues #5 and #6, a hero loses control, leading to an unexpected ending that will fundamentally change the lives of the World's Greatest Heroes forever. This issue launches a major storyline in the DC Universe and is not to be missed!

Heretical Jargon: R2D2 Pimps It Out

I think everyone can understand this...and appreciate it I might add.  At least the guys and lesbians will...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Comic Book Review: The Phantom Stranger #42

Book Information
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Ardian Syaf

The Phantom Stranger returns to the comic books stands as Blackest Night comes closer to its inevitable climax.  The Stranger takes on the Black Lantern Spectre along with the help of Blue Devil.  To make matters worse, the confusing dilemma of Deadman fighting his risen body becomes the central focus of the Stranger; he assists Deadman in taking control of his body to hopefully bury it where it will be kept safe.  But what happens when a barrage of Black Lanterns have set out to destroy that very resting place?

My Thoughts
I know nothing of the Phantom Stranger except that I’ve heard of him and seen him occasionally cameo in certain titles I pick up monthly; that’s the extent of my knowledge.  After reading this issue however, I’m starting to hope DC has plans on making a permanent revival of the hero because I loved every moment of this book.

Tomasi intelligently writes the banter between Blue Devil and The Stranger, making it humorous while still maintaining that serious undertone.  It was fun to see Blue Devil unable to out wit someone with his negative outlook on life.  The Phantom Stranger wasn’t even making any snappy comebacks at the expense of Blue Devil, but still kept the blue demon in his place.

The story has two major plotlines going on, (which is a risky thing to do) where the Stranger and Devil assist the Spectre to take back control of his body with no success, and Boston Brand fights his risen corpse and rebury it.  Both of these plots stay strong and do not linger or dwell on unimportant dialog and narratives.  We discover that the souls of risen lanterns stay in tact while the bodies remain consumed by the black rings.  This was also hinted at in Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #2 in which her Diana’s inner monolog narrates the story while her body brutally murders three people.  Boston Brand fighting the horde of Black Lanterns was intense and terrifying; I could sense the pain coming from Brand so vividly it was incredible.  I did enjoy the Spectre fight, but I was thrown off by the unresolved conflict where The Spectre was unable to regain control of his body, and the Black Lantern side of the spirit of vengeance flies off to find Hal Jordan.  I’m sure this only means The Spectre holds some importance to the resolution of Blackest Night, which means I have more to look forward too.

The Phantom Stranger is such an interesting character, much like the Question and the Spirit.  I find myself attracted to those hardcore, vintage detective titles more and more as DC continually revitalizes the silver age of comics.  I cannot stress enough how I wish DC would give the Phantom Stranger his own title back and allow us unfamiliar to him to discover how obviously cool he is.

Ardian Syaf is a great artist whose style resembles that of my favorite comic book artists, Ed Benes and Ivan Reis.  The realistic figures and wonderful facial expressions should not go unnoticed or undenied as some of the best work in comics.  In fact, I would argue that where Syaf surpasses Benes lies with the originality of his work.  Ed Benes tends to make all of his woman and men very similar in facial features, where as Syaf seems to have a variety of faces in which he brings to his art.

No complaints about this issue except for the fact that Zatanna appears on the cover, but not in the actual story.  I hate it when that’s done and it seems to be a consistent feature of DC comic books.  However, I’m not allowing that to dictate my feelings about this issue.  Unless one of my comics I’ve subscribed too comes in the mail later and blows me away, I think this issue will most definitely make my top three comics for the month.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10 stars

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Heretical Jargon: Brightest Day Rings!

So if DC fans thought their ring collection was complete, think again!  DC has announced their new ring promotion scam.  According to the DC Universe Blog, retailers who purchase 10 copies of The Flash #1 may order Flash Promotional Rings, as well as 10 copies of Green Lantern #53 they get Green Lantern Promotional Rings. Both titles appear in the February Previews catalog and will arrive in stores in April.

Having not received any of the Corps Rings, This makes me mad!  I want them all!  And now there's the best treasure ring in history, what to do???

The Film Menagerie: Fan Made Batman Poster

Yes, it's fan made, but pretty darn cool.  Hopefully news about the actual new Batman film will be released sooner rather than later.

Whose hands do you think those are?  Look closely and I'll bet you can figure it out....

Monday, January 25, 2010

Superbabes: She-Hulk Is So Hot

As much as I think She-Hulk is the dumbest idea ever, she is a friggin hottie!!  This cover is from She-Hulk #7

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Spider-Man Reeboot Video Parody

You know, there's a lot of truth in this video.  In case you didn't know, Marvel is doing a reboot of the entire Spider-Man franchise.  Whole new cast, whole new approach, etc etc.  There's a lot of good things about that, but a lot more bad things too.  Hopefully, Marvel will get the picture and not just produce some piece of crap that no one is going to like.  What should they do?  Keep the same spirit that made the first 3 Spidey films a success, but bring a much more serious tone to the reboot.  But don't make it a teeny boper film, PLEASE!!  Use good actors and actresses, get a director who can do this stori justice, and don't allow it to become a reason for making money...give the audience what they really want.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mirror Images: The Unoriginality Of Avatar

The following is an article written by Jared Crawford, a fellow blogger, movie buff, film historian and expert of contemporary sociological issues.  He write this article a week after the film Avatar was released and has requested I post it here on my blog.

Mirror Images
The Unoriginality And Theft Of James Cameron's Avatar

A completely new and original idea is rare these days.  How many of us can claim to have had a truly original idea, thought, action, dream, etc.?  The answer is no one; those idealists have lived their lives and past on.  We now live in an age of Xeroxed ideas, stories, films and dreams that are constantly being recycled by the everyday, hardworking man and woman, all the way to the prestigious millionaires of the world.  Nothing is new, and everything has been done.  So when it comes to film one must ask, how do you create something that’s already be done?  That of course is the wrong question to ask; rather we should ask how does one make what’s already be done their own?

I of course am focusing all my literary efforts on the hit film Avatar which has taken theaters by storm and will eventually go down in history as the most watch film in movie history.  To be completely honest, I appreciate so much of what I saw on screen.  It was one of the more visually appealing movies I’ve had the pleasure of seeing.  Avatar is without a doubt the new foundation for special effects movies for years to come.  But to whom does Avatar owe the success it has achieved in such a short time?  Who should James Cameron be bowing down too in thanks for the inspiration of this film?  After all, I’ve already established that there are no original ideas; that they come from somewhere else, correct?  Two words, Fern Gulley.  Yes, the early 90’s animated feature about saving the rain forest is where Mr. Cameron not only was inspired to make Avatar, but literally stole the plot and inserted it into his flashy , over the top, predictable film.

There is not a single spot in Avatar that can’t be found in the cartoon classic.  First, let me begin by examining the obvious plagiarism of Cameron in the world of both films.  Fern Gulley contains a race of natives who are bounded to the Earth in a deep, emotional and physical way.  Every step of the way through this forest becomes a bright, colorful place that glows in the dark and lights up wherever it is touched, stepped on, or caressed.  Even the religious aspect of the movie is a persistent theme.  The fairies, towards the climax of the movie, gather together as one to call upon the spirits power to protect them in their time of need.  The fairies even communicate with the forest and feel its pain, crying whenever a tree is destroyed.  Tell me, where are these aspects not found in Avatar?

Secondly, the plot devices between the two films are absolutely identical.  There is a princess who is betroved to another male within the tribe.  That is interrupted by the introduction of an outsider out seems strangely American.  This stranger was also involved with the destruction of the woodland area and attempts to keep that hidden from the natives, with whom has become just alike.  Through a series of trials and tribulations, this male learns to love his new found friends and feels guilty for lying to them, which of course leads him to spilling the beans.  At this point, the entire tribe hates and shuns him (except for the mother of course) until our hero decides to sacrifice himself and save the day, in which case he is reaccepted into the tribe.  Included in this reflection is the intimate moment where the outsider and the princess share together away from everyone else, the similar and memorable characters that practically carbon copies of one another, and the big fucking machine designed to destroy tress in the blink of an eye.

All in all, the two films are virtually identical.  The only difference is the conclusion where one must go back in order to stop deforestation for the sake of industrial advancement; the other becomes a part of the tribe through spiritual and supernatural means.  My opinion?  Bill Kroyer and the rest of the Fern Gulley team should sue James Cameron for ripping off their idea.  And thank Pocahontas, Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai, and a conglomeration of other films in which Avatar steals from.  No argument can be made that this film is the most unoriginal movie to have ever been made.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Comic Book Review: Suicide Squad #67

Book Information
Written by Gail Simone & John Ostrander
Art by J. Calafiore

DC Comics has resurrected many of the popular classic titles from back in the day.  The month of January brings us the best selling title, The Suicide Squad.  With the Amanda Waller at the fore front of the Squad, their mission is to seek out their old comrade, Deadshot, and bring him back into their ranks.  In addition, the Fiddler has risen from the dead and seeks revenge on Deadshot for murdering him all those years ago.  It’s a jam packed issue filled with familiar faces and moving dialogue.

My Thoughts
As much as I love Simone and Ostrander, I’m rather disappointed with this issue.  It contains a lot of fun and adventurous moments, but lacks a certain substance that has defined the Simone Ostrander team for so long.  One thing is for sure, this issue isn’t a shining moment for DC comics and the two writers.

Simone and Ostrander write their typical quality storyline involving great humor, angst driven plot devices, and wonderful character development.  Bane acting the scary, over-protective father figure towards Scandal couldn’t be funnier.  Asking Liana about her sex life before meeting Scandal was ridiculously funny, along with Ragdoll’s inappropriate and ill-timed side comments.  The moments leading up to the fight between the Six and the Squad were very moving and “Secret Sixish,” filled with wisecracks and character appropriate dialogue.

However, one thing that threw me was the shifting from narrator or narrator.  The issue starts off with the Fiddler’s inner monologue and switches to Yasmine’s.  Maybe it’s just me and I’m weird, but typically I prefer to have just one narrator so the story has more focus and drive to a comprehensible conclusion.  Like every Blackest Night tie-in, Suicide Squad #67 starts off with a reminiscent scene by a central character important to the story.  As already stated, the Fiddler tells his story at the beginning, which causes me to believe the stories foundation is centered around the him.  But then midway, Yasmine’s inner Monologue is seen which shifts the focus from the Fiddler to Yasmine.  It then reverts back to the Fiddler towards the end, and by the time I’ve finished the book, I have no idea who the central character was for this story.

In addition, having the two titles on one book is rather deceiving.  The Suicide Squad appears for less than 40% of their own book, and any appearance made by Black Lanterns is less than 10%.  After finishing this book, I came to the conclusion that DC had no real purpose in resurrecting the Suicide Squad except for the mere sake of Slapping the name on a book in addition to the story arc title “Blackest Night” to boost theirs sales.  The plot development from the perspective of the Squad doesn’t exist in this book, and their appearance and confrontation with the Six is rather abrupt and strangely transitioned.

I’m rather disappointed in this issue, Simone and Ostrander are two of my favorite writers in comics and this issue makes me think they are no more talented than the over rated Grant Morrison.  Granted, this is the first issue I’ve ever read by Simone or Ostrander that I felt was very bad, but it’s still a blow to the crotch.

Rating: 4 out of 10 stars

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Comic Book Review: Green Lantern Corps #44

Book Information

Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Patrick Gleeson & Rebecca Buchman

Black Lanterns relentlessly attack the GL power battery, and the Corps is helpless against them.  The only thing keeping the Zombies at bay is the newly inducted Red Lantern, Guy Gardner.  While The Green Lanterns pray that Guy’s continuing rampage against the Black Lantern Corps will be successful, Mogo comes on board with and delivers coup de grace on the Zombies that, quite frankly, leaves them a little hot under the gills.

My Thoughts
The Green Lantern Corps has never impressed to the point where find myself awestruck and flabbergasted.  That state of being frozen with surprise usually is saved for stories written by Gail Simon, Neil Gaiman, or Alan Moore.  However, Tomasi proved to the world that he has just as much talent in his writing skills that the other heavy hitting writers have.

The plot itself goes beyond my expectations, utilizing the element of surprise to its fullest degree.  I’ve never seen a point in Mogo’s character, why induct a planet into the corps when all it’s able to do is idle in space and make other Lanterns feel good about themselves?  It never occurred to me that Mogo could actually become a valuable asset to the corps.  With the ability to draw in any organic life form is one thing, but to push the Black Lanterns into Mogo’s hot, molten core was a stroke of genius.  With this tactic, the Green Lanterns don’t have to worry about destroying them since they will constantly be melting and burning forever.  That is the type of ending that vivaciously engages your excitement and keeps your interests alive.  Two thumbs up for Tomasi for his intelligence and originality.

Guy Gardner as a Red Lantern is a lot more exciting than I initially thought.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think he had it in him, even with HIS temper, to take on an entire race of creatures single handedly without a scratch.  But what caught my attention the most was the love he portrayed for his friend and alley, Kyle Rayner.  As Kyle approached through the horde of Zombies, Guy’s rage tone down almost completely with the relief that Rayner wasn’t dead.  But as suddenly as that happened, Guy reverted back to his angry state of mind and began attacking Rayner as if her were his arch nemesis.  It didn’t matter that Rayner was still alive, it didn’t matter that he risked his life forcing himself through the clutter of Black Lanterns to see Guy, all that matter with Gardner was the rage within him.  Guy even stated he enjoys the Rage, as if it were clearer and more enjoyable than anything else he’s ever experienced.  This shows me that deep down inside, Guy Gardner really has nothing in his heart except rage.  Hopefully his girl, Ice, will be coming into the picture soon to help calm him down and find peace yet again.

Patrick Gleeson is an interesting artist.  He has a way of making his strange artistic style connect with me in many ways.  I’m very picky when it comes to art.  Give me clean lines, realistic expressions, interesting usage of colors and lighting and you have me hooked; Gleeson hardly has any of that in my mind.  Yet for reasons I can’t explain, I love his art work.  Maybe it’s the flashy attitude he puts into every page, maybe it’s the detailed work he puts in the background, or maybe his style is just different enough to me that I find it incredible to look at that makes me enjoy anything he does.  Whatever the case, Gleeson creates art that is undeniably top quality and I couldn’t ask him for better.

Fantastic issue!  I’m torn between this and the current issue of Batman that Tony Daniels delivered this month for the best of January.  One thing is for sure, this issue will be the best or second best comic of the month.  But with the Black Lantern crisis averted, how will the GL Corps deal with red ring bearing maniac Guy Gardner?

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Next Issue Coming February 17th, 2010
The battle for the Green Lantern Battery on Oa comes to a bloody end as the new fron in the War of Light emergis!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Top Ten DC Comic Books Of 2009

10. Supergirl #43
Supergirl has always been a title I refused to pick up on purpose.  It wasn't until Sterling Gates came on board when I found Supergirl to have potential at being one of the better comic titles being sold on DC's repertoire.  This particular issue focuses on Kara with coming to terms with her mother whom has only been reacquainted with for a short time.  With the small mystery and new realizations that Kara discovers about herself and her mother, this issue took Supergirl to a whole new level.

9. Supergirl Annual #1
This issue takes two comics and staples them together to form a fantastic epic.  Two separate stories, yet they still act as one.  One story gives a fantastic commentary on the prejudice of people and shows how one person's good intentions can lead to another person's torment and despair.  The second story goes back in time to explain the origin of Superwoman, also know as Lucy Lane, sister to Lois Lane.  This issue was a emotionally packed story and very intelligently written with art that kept you turning the page wanting more.

8. Wonder Woman #38
While the common person would allow the fact that the world was coming to an end to tear away at our soul and weaken them, Wonder Woman stands firm and fights back.  Gail Simone shows over and over again that Wonder Woman is not your average comic book anymore.  This issue gives an image of wonder woman as the most powerful force on planet earth as she defies all odds and takes on the evil placed before her.

7. Action Comics Annual #12
The reason why I'm a nut case for DC Comics is due to their mythological approach to most storylines and origins.  This book puts in place the origin of the old/new mythological heroes of Krypton, Nightwing and Flamebird.  But what makes this book different from the rest is how the two origin stories start out as completely separate entities, but become one towards the end.  Greg Rucka shows that the religious significance of the two will have a huge impact on the DC Universe sooner or later.  Flamebird and Nightwing and slowly taking charge of Action Comics and I hope it stays that way.

6. Batman: Cacophony #3
When this min-series began, I was unimpressed.  The first two issues were slow and unengaging.  But this third and final issue was a nice surprise to an unsatisfying mini-series.  In the same degree that Alan Moore took the Joker with his story "The Killing Joke," Kevin Smith humanizes the Joker in a way no one has done before.  It's funny to think that a person can hate you, respect you, and sympathize with you all at the same time.  The Joker's apology to Batman was such a powerful piece of oratory that I almost put this book in the top five.  Kevin Smith, while not the best story arc writer, truly knows how to get at the heart of a character.

5. Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #1
I wasn't sure if any of the Blackest Night tie-ins were ever going to meet the standards that Geoff Johns has set.  The Superman and Batman tie-ins were pretty worthless and uninspiring.  But leave it to Greg Rucka to make anything worth reading.  Diana's approach in dealing with the risen Maxwell Lord was equally terrifying as it was amazing.  The torment Diana was obviously going through in having to face the man she brutally murdered was very interesting and emotional.  With her stoic and wooden body while fighting Lord and his army was a work of genius, this issue is definitely worthy of a placing in the top five for the year.

4. Batman #686
When I heard Neil Gaiman was enlisted to write two issue of Batman, my joy was indescribable.  I've never read anything by Neil Gaiman that I didn't absolutely love, and Gaiman certainly doesn't disappoint.  Inspired by Alan Moore's story arc "What Ever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow," Gaiman takes the title and replaces "Man of Tomorrow" with "Caped Crusader."  However, this is nothing like Moore's masterpiece.  Gaiman uses his master science fiction story telling approach and completely reconstructs the world Batman we thought we knew into something strange, yet satisfying.  And as Gaiman always does, he leaves us wanting more.

3. Secret Six #15
Having John Ostrander back writing for Deadshot was a smart move on DC's part.  Having been the mastermind behind the Suicide Squad for so long, it only made sense to give Simone a break and let someone as equally qualified to write a chilling psychological profile on one of DC's most notoriously lovable villains.  The conclusions the story comes to is this, he’s a lunatic who has a sense of humanity to him, but has no love for people in general, is conflicted with his traumatic family past, couldn't give a rats ass if he lives or dies, but hopes to God that he does die.  Confused?  Well when you read it like that, yeah.  But Ostrander makes this confusing story make so much sense (in a twisted way) that you put the book down, but pick it back up and read it again.

2. Wonder Woman #33
I wanted so badly to put this issue in the top #1 spot, that's how good this issue is.  Fighting against all odds, shunning your people, lashing out against those whom have given you their love all your life, and turning your back on your religious upbringing is all right here in this issue.  Nothing bad can be said about this final chapter in Simone's "Rise of an Olympian" story arc both in the writing and the art; this issue shows just how good comic books can be.  The story and art are so equally powerful that I can't see how anyone could disagree that Wonder Woman #33 does not rightfully deserve a second place finish in the best comics of 2009 contest.  Gail Simone, you are my hero.

1. Detective Comics #853
Well of course I'm going to give this issue the top spot, it was written by Neil Gaiman.  Call me biased but the only comic book writer who can come close to beating out Gaiman would be the esteemed Alan Moore.  No thanks to Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman justly explains the Dark Knight's death in his typical, outlandish way filled with science fiction, horror, love and humanity.  I would have never even considered using his mother as a guiding light for Bruce Wayne, but it's one of the more logical and creative ideas I've ever seen.  It's true for all of us right?  Our mothers are typically the ones the children go to when needing that nurturing and loving care we all crave many times in our lives.  This is not only something we, as readers can relate too very easily, but it helps to humanize a character that has been viewed as a God in the DC Universe.

But as Neil Gaiman always does, he puts an unsettling taste in my mouth, leaving me with the knowledge that Bruce Wayne will always be cursed with the Cape and Cowl.  The story showed the different flashback scenes as being different and unique from the other, like each one was a part of a different world and time.  Gaiman was trying to show that Bruce Wayne is reborn over and over again as Batman.  But this also means that Bruce constantly has to relive that horrifying day when his parents are shot in that alley way right in front of him.  This defies the typical comic book storyline where the hero saves the day and everyone is happy.  Bruce Wayne dies in this issue, but is he really dead?  No, he has to live with the fact that he will rise again to become Batman and all the pain and torment that comes with it.  

It was this fact of the story which gives me full confidence that I chose the right book as the best comic of 2009.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Comic Book Review: Secret Six #17

Book Information
Written by Gail Simone & John Ostrander
Art by J. Calafiore

The Suicide Squad takes on the Secret Six in a fight to the death.  The Squad’s main target is The Six’s trigger happy ally, Deadshot.  While the Squad fights the Six in an attempt to reclaim Deadshot and bring him back into their ranks, the Lanterns of death make a unwelcome surprise and begin to trash and rip the hearts out of the inmates of the Belle Reve Jail.  Now, the two super villain teams must worked together to escape the clutches of the blood thirsty Black Lantern Corps.

My Thoughts
Like all the Blackest Night tie-ins, Secret Six #17 begins with a flash back by a character who has a distinct, yet distant connection to the book, Yasemin, who was killed by Deadshot earlier in this story.  She has risen from the dead and seeks vengeance against our bullet crazy fiend.  Having not read Suicide Squad #67, I was a little confused by what was going on.  This only means I’ll need to go to the comic book store tomorrow and pick up my own copy and play catch up.  It was an interesting inner recapping monologue however, in the sense that her death only happened last issue, yet she’s acting like this vengeance has been a long time coming.  It makes for an angst driven an intense introduction to this issue, but it seemed a bit contrived and strange to me.

Aside from that minor defect in the story, Simone and Ostrander deliver an exceptional issue that goes beyond what the typical comic book story does.  We have three super villain teams going at each other tooth and nail, The Secret Six, The Suicide Squad, and the Black Lantern Corps.  This approach to a story shouldn’t work, yet these two heavy hitting writers take it on as if it were the most natural thing in the world.  What’s satisfying about these match ups are how Simone makes the odd fights work very well in the literature.  While Catman and Bronze Tiger seem the most obvious brawl, Bane punching it up with Nightshade and Vertigo seems like a very unlikely fight, yet it’s written so smoothly and effortlessly; shows the unending versatility and intelligence that Simone and Ostrander have as writers.

Calafiore, while still a great artist, doesn’t hold a candle to Nicola Scott.  At first I thought Calafiore was going to transition into this title quite well, but he instead displays a lack of artistry that has been visualized so perfectly by Mrs. Scott.  The close up shots were intense and had crispness to them; the distant panels, like the fight scenes between Bane, Nightshade and Vertigo for example, were very stone like and frozen and it became a distracting feature of the book.  Many of the panels where someone landed a punch, the illusion of forward motion, and images where the fist makes contact are almost non-existent.  The art was a real disappointment for me as I know I’ve seen better coming from Calafiore.

As far as the tie-in to Blackest Night is concerned, I don’t think it did the job well.  It was a tie-in, yes, but it didn’t really do anything to progress the story.  Everything that happened in this issue has already occurred with every other tie-in.  It’s as if DC just wanted an excuse for including Blackest Night into one of its more popular selling titles and didn’t care if it helped boost the story in the least.  DC just wanted to slap Blackest Night at the top of the cover and call it good.  That’s quite the cop out if you ask me.

Had some flaws, but mainly consisted with the art and the less than satisfactory Blackest Night tie-in.  Still, it’s a fun read; all attributed to the writing team of Simone and Ostrander.

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Next Issue Coming February 10th, 2010
It's the exciting conclusion of John Ostrander and Gail Simone's epic team-up! The Black Lanterns have both the Suicide Squad and the Secret Six up against the wall. But Amanda Waller always has a plan. That plan: Manhunter! Plus, Deadshot is forced to make the decision of his life!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Comic Book Review: Actions Comics #885

Book Information
Written by Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann
Art by Pere Perez

Earth and New Krypton’s relationship is dangled in front of us in an enormous spread of storylines and plot devices.  Nightwing and Flamebird go on the hunt for Zod’s sleeper agents, but run into trouble when the Science Police, accompanied by Mon-El, corner them.  Can the two so-called mythological heroes of New Krypton convince the Guardian and Mon-El about the oncoming danger that within Metropolis?  And will General Lane finally be put in his place by the one closest to him?

My Thoughts
Rucka, overall, has done a great job with Nightwing and Flamebird; things seem to actually be coming to a successful resolution and tie-in with the New Krypton story.  In this particular issue we are given a few minor plot deviations along with the main one which involves our two headline heroes searching for the sleeper agents of Zods.  How interesting to find out that at least two of those agents have been in our heroes sights the whole time.  I figured it out with Doctor Pillings; however officer Romundi was a complete twist for me.  I commend Rucka for providing a pleasant surprise as most of the plot twists and turns in this arc have been fairly predictable, but not annoyingly so.

I did find myself in a suspended state when Lois Lane decides to confront her father to show him the error of his ways.  It was very short and only consisted of five panels on one page, but it’s still a very powerful moment.  To address one’s parents in a moment of corrective teaching is not the easiest thing in the world to do for a son or daughter.  But, as we all know, Lois Lane is no push over, and neither is her father.  It was a short, yet powerfully moving.

A lesser aspect of the story was the sudden change in loyalty portrayed by the Guardian.  He goes from thinking Nightwing and Flamebird are untrustworthy enemies of Earth, (displayed in his response to Flamebird’s promise to not fight back, “Your word, whatever that’s worth) to trusting them 100% and fighting against General Lane and his band of soldiers.  I’m not sure I entirely buy into the sudden side change, but it was minor flaw that didn’t detract me from the story very much.

I did enjoy the fact that there were only two one paged ads in this book.  This installment is literally jam packed with dialogue and story; very unorthodox for your contemporary comic book these days, a nice little refreshing change.  Maybe this trend will catch on in DC Comics sooner rather than later.

The art has very little flaws.  Perez does an amazing job with the pencils, but his colorists could improve on the color scheme of the book.  Its light tinted tone leaves very little to look at and creates a boring and wooden feel in every page turn.

Not too shabby of an issue.  Overall, the plot is great; it really pushes the story forward which will help the issue with New Krypton.  However, the art and a few tiny story defects have some effect on the enjoyability of the issue in its entirety.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10 stars

Next Issue Coming February 10th, 2010
Nightwing and Flamebird race the clock to capture Jax-Ur, the most dangerous of Zod's sleeper agents. 

And in the Captain Atom co-feature, our hero explores the horrors of his past with the help of Mon-El and Starfire!

2010 Golden Globes: The Awards

Here are the results from the Golden Globes which aired last night...

Best Supporting film/mini-series Actor for TV: John Lithgow - Dexter (Showtime)
Best Supporting film/mini-series Actress for TV: Chloe Sevigny - Big Love (HBO)
Best film/miniseries Actor for TV: Kevin Bacon - Taking Chance (HBO)
Best film/mini-series Actress For TV: Drew Barrymore - Grey Gardens (HBO)
Best TV film/mini-series: Grey Gardens (HBO)
Best Actor for a TV Series (comedy or musical): Alec Baldwin - 30 Rock (NBC)
Best Actress for a TV Series (comedy or musical): Toni Colette - United States of Tara (Showtime)
Best TV Series: Glee (Fox)
Best Actor for TV Series (drama): Michael C. Hall - Dexter
Best Actress for TV Series (drama): Julianna Margulies - The Good Wife (CBS)

Best TV Series (drama): Mad Men (ABC)
Best Original Song: The Weary Kind - Crazy Heart
Best Original Score: Michael Giacchino - Up!
Best Original Screenplay: Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner - Up In The Air
Best Film Director: James Cameron - Avatar
Best Foreign Language Film: Das Weisse Band (German)
Best Animated Film: Up! (Pixar Animation Studios; Disney Motion Picture Studios)
Best Supporting Film Actor: Christopher Waltz - Inglorious Bastards
Best Supporting Film Actress: Mo'Nique - Precious
Best Comedy or Musical Film Actor: Robert Downey Jr. - Sherlock Holmes
Best Comedy or Musical Film Actress: Meryl Streep - Julia & Julia

Best Comedy or Musical Film: The Hangover (Warner Bros.)
Best Drama Film Actor: Jeff Bridges - Crazy Heart
Best Drama Film Actress: Sandra Bullock - The Blind Side
Best Drama Film: Avatar (Fox)

As I don't necessarily agree with a lot of the picks, I do always have to remind myself that this is the olden Globes and really doesn't reflect the truth.  But I am glad to see that the evil Twentieth Century Fox Network only received two awards, even if one of those awards was the BIG prize.

I am happy to see Mo'Nique take the Best Supporting Actress award as she undoubtedly deserved it, as well as Meryl Streep in her superb interpretation of Julia Styles.  However, I don't agree with the decision of giving Sandra Bullock an award when the other nominated actresses were superbly better with exception of Gabourey Sidibe.

All in all, the Golden Globes are more for the people who feel the Academy awards are wrong 90% of the time.  The Golden Globes are fun, but geez, they really aren't worth much except to hand out awards to those who probably wont win anything in the academy awards.  The Golden Globes only focus one the obvious like music, acting, and the actual film.  No awards go out to the film editors, art directors, and other talents that are hidden behind the screen.  The exceptions are the truly phenomenal ones like Mo'Nique, Up!, and other great films and performances.

Comic Book Review: Batman #695

Book Information
Written & Drawn by Tony Daniel
Inks by Sandu Florea

Both Batman and the Penguin must fight as allies in order to defeat their newest and biggest problem, the Black Mask.  His slow rise to power and control over the city of Gotham is throwing Batman for a loop, but he will stop at nothing to bring the murderer to justice.  However, an old adversary returns to stop the Caped Crusader and finally have his revenge.  Will Batman defeat his powerful nemesis or will his blade pierce the heart of Batman causing a chorus of cheers from every crook and murderer in Gotham to echo throughout the dark city streets?

My Thoughts
Finally!  Dick Grayson finally takes his rightfully earned place as the heir to the cape and cowl.  I had my doubts as whether or not Dick Grayson could ever live up to Wayne’s legacy of merciless and unrelenting crime fighting.  He’s hanging criminals by their ankles from ropes, burning down crime lord’s houses, chucking himself head first into the villains, Grayson is holding nothing back and doing all he can to bring Black Mask behind bars.  Tony Daniels did a bang up job with this issue and I applaud his masterful storytelling skills in the way he progressed through this book.

Daniel’s artwork has been continually growing on me, but this book locked me in as a Daniels fan.  The lines are crisp and clear and have incredible shadows following every character.  I usually hate it when a hired freelancer does both the writing and the artwork, typically because it’s too much of a daunting task to put on one person.  But Daniels is not disappointing me and I certainly hope fans realize that Daniels is “bringing it” with this issue.

Of course, every great story has to have one tiny flaw.  With this issue, it’s the idiotic choice Grayson makes in entering the house of mirrors.  Now aside from the fact that the house of mirrors is an overused plot device in the world of Batman, to knowingly enter into such a confusing and brain twisting place feels like a bad choice to make since I’m sure Grayson knew the bad guy would have the upper hand.  It was in this moment where Grayson deviated from his training and acted the fool.  “Someone ran into the fun house.  No doubt they’re expecting me to follow…I won’t disappoint.”  That quote made me slap myself in the face in embarrassment for Batman.  And it makes me wonder why, in that moment, I’ve suddenly become smarter than the Dark Knight.  But really, if that’s the only faulty aspect of the story, I can accept it as a needed twist in the plot.

A fantastic issue, best comic I’ve read this month so far.  It was nice to see the Riddler back in action.  Sometimes these newer villains get too much panel time and DC forgets to keep the classic villains alive and fresh.  The Falcone family struggle and mystery is increasingly getting better and Dick Grayson as Batman is getting more intense as the months push forward.  Tony Daniel can keep writing for Batman as far as I’m concerned.

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Next Issue Coming February 17th, 2010
Batman at the mercy of Black Mask! While trapped in the crime lord's headquarters, The Dark Knight must find a way to escape before all of Gotham City falls prey to the Mask's lethal toxins. Guest-starring Catwoman, Penguin, Robin and the Reaper!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

2010 Golden Globes: Does Avatar Deserve A Golden Globe?

It's a shame I don't get cable where I can watch the Golden Globes at the comfort of my own home.  However, I am keeping the website up to help keep track of the awards as they come out.  And while it's fun to see Up!, Inglorious Bastards and other great films get some awesome awards, I can't get away from the best picture nominations.

As I'm sure you all know, the nominated films are as follows...

1. Avatar
2. The Hurt Locker
3. Inglorious Bastards
4. Precious
5. Up in the Air

Having not seen two of these films nominated films, The Hurt Locker & Inglorious Bastards, I can't really speak for them.  However, the other three nominations I have had the pleasure of seeing.  While Precious and Up in the Air are completely deserving of this highly acclaimed award, Avatar truly disappoints me in making the nominations.  A film such as Avatar truly does redefine the art of movie making as far as the special effects are concerned, but to put in the category one of the best films of 2009, I tilt my head in wonder.

There are many things that make a good movie, effects, music, editing, scenery, art direction, script, direction, acting, and so on and so forth.  However, the script and story are what make the movie what it is.  Precious and Up in the Air are truly great films in the fact that they create truly original story lines in an innovative way.  Along with top notch acting performances, those two film are very "human" stories written in an intelligent way.  In my opinion, the two said films are both very deserving of best picture.

Avatar, on the other hand, finds a new way of being one of the most unoriginal films I've ever seen when it comes to the story.  Every single event that takes place in the film is predictable and contains no originality.  Along with it's blatant racist undertones when dealing with American Indians and English colonists, the film's script and story are equal to that of Fern Gully, Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai, Pocahontas, Aladdin, and other like stories.   If it hadn't of been for the films amazing special effects, it would have been another cheesy Disney "feel-good" movie, not worthy of Best Picture Award.

As I await the results of Best Picture, I'll keep my fingers crossed that the more deserving films beat out the average Avatar.  My top 5 best films (In no specific order) of 2009 would be these...

1. Up In The Air
2. Precious
3. Up!
4. Nine
5. Coraline

Of course keep in mind I haven't seen EVERY film that's come out last, including the two nominees Inglorious Bastards and The Hurt Locker.  But Expect they could replace a few films that I have in my five, as well as the Road.  Their are so many good films out there, and Avatar, a second rate story line makes the nominations.  I certainly hope America grows up a little and figures out that Avatar, while being a visual masterpiece, is nothing compared to truly amazing films.