The Violent Blue blog***Comics, Horror and Pop Culture***Updates Tuesday through Friday (and occasionally at random)

Marvel

Black Widow

I’m not sure who out there is paying the premium Disney+ subscription fee… I mean, that extra $30 would just piss me off. I’m already irritated enough that my friends insisted on us going to see movies at Midway Cinemas instead of Amherst Cinemas, where the tickets are three dollars cheaper. (On the other hand, the riffraff has been showing up a lot in Amherst, where as at Midway, we ARE The riffraff.)

I came home pretty tired that day and half wondering if I could just blow it off. After all, Black Widow is not a movie I was seriously stoked for. But, it was the first time this crew had gotten together for a film in over a year, and my daughter met me at the door to remind me how excited she was for our movie today. So off we went, looking for people that we looking around to see if we could spot anybody we knew in a theater. Maddie tapped me on the shoulder and asked me

“Why is there a Deadpool right behind us? “

I looked, and sure enough, Deadpool was sitting right there, arguing with a 10-year-old boy about whether the DC universe was better than the Marvel universe.

“My friend over there says your movie sucked.”

“Well your friend obviously has terrible taste.”

“Why weren’t you in infinity war?”

“They couldn’t match my qoute.“

“Why don’t you ever do any DC?”

“Maybe if you wore something green” I chimed in.

Deadpool swung around jabbing an angry finger in my face.

“Now that’s going to far!”

I realize I’m talking more about the experience of going to the movie than the movie itself. There is of course, a reason for that. The whole point of the outing was really about getting back to the movies, and getting back with friends. The movie was secondary, and so was it’s quality.

Black Widow is at best, and average movie. My buddy Josh really hit the nail on the head when he described it as feeling like a Brosnan era bond film. There’s some superhero elements in it, and some Marvel characters floating around… but most of them are kind of marvel in name only. Like they threw a bunch of names in a hat and just decided “OK these are the ones we’re going to use…” and then try to fit the square pegs into whatever round holes they could successfully pound them into. Red Guardian isn’t really red guardian, Taskmaster has been significantly changed just to be a better fit for this film thematically, at the cost of his character. Black Widow for her part, well, Scarlett Johansson never plays her the same way twice… So it may not be fair to suggest she’s different in this movie.

In an adventure that takes place immediately after Civil War, Black Widow teams up with her sister to find and destroy the red room, a facility that brainwashes women and turns them into assassins just like she was. It’s a thin plot, with a bit of origin thrown in a flashback…and it’s kind of unnecessary. We needed this film to have come out right after Civil War. That would’ve given it legs and momentum, and wouldn’t have felt quite as shoehorned into the MCU as it does. It would make a great double feature with the Wasp and Ant-man. But plugging it in now, retreading this ground so late in the MCU, it just feels shoehorned in… With this unknown adventure, and the secret sister that we’re only finding about now… I can’t help but wonder, did Black Widow really need her own movie in the first place?

This is a valid question . Watching this film, it’s obvious that Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow cannot carry a film by herself. Fortunately they’ve surrounded her with an excellent cast that outshines her in almost every scene she shares with them. I’m totally into the sister, despite the fact that this is the first thing that I’ve seen Florence Paugh in.

Black Widow is an excellent supporting character. She’s really the glue that held the MCU together (Far more so than Agent Coulson ever was) but she’s not solo material. I’m not even sure that it’s necessary… She’s been in more MCU films than Thor or the Hulk, and if you go outside the MCU, she still has more screen credits than the Punisher or Daredevil, or the Fantastic Four! More credits than Marvel’s first family!  She’s been in as many movies as Superman! The first superhero, the original, recognized worldwide. Black Widow has had roles in just as many movies as he has. She’s not lacking for exposure or respect.

All that said, this is not a terrible movie. It’s fine. Pointless, but fine. It doesn’t do much to push any story further, it doesn’t do much as far as world building, he genuinely feels like someone just pitched “We need a Black Widow movie! Just do whatever, as long as you don’t break canon. Maybe have a woman directed to because that’s popular right now.”

Still, tt gave us a reason to get back out in the theater together, and it also gave us Natasha’s sister Yelena… who I’m quite eager to see show up again in the upcoming Hawkeye TV series. This one’s not a film that I would go out of my way to see in the movie theaters unless you’re doing it to get together with people like this. As far as just watching it as a Marvel movie I’d actually be perfectly content to wait until Disney+ takes down the premium fee for it and just adds it to their collection.

 


Nomad

bestuntitlednNomad is really kind of a guilty pleasure. He’s quintessentially 90’s with the long hair, the gun and sometimes-trenchcoat. Paste this persona on a pre-existing character with ties to Cap so he has some history and volia! We have a winner!

There isn’t much more to this than what it appears. Biker hero with a gun and stun discs who spends half the run taking care of a baby (nice twist). If you ever watched the syndicated TV show “Renegade” around the same time, you get the picture.

These aren’t bad stories. I pick them up when ever I see them in a dump bin. It’s fun reading from an era I remember fondly, but don’t go into it expecting any depth.


The Muppet Show

bestimagesCASFY8A1One of the initial offerings from Boom! Comics, this comic really captured everything about the show that made it great. It didn’t ignore subsequent generations of Muppets (the way the more recent Disney films have) but it focused on the familiar, set it back at the theatre and really pushed to recreate the sense of fun and friends that we had wit the Muppets.

Boom really took advantage of this license, putting out side projects like Muppet King Arthur or Sherlock Homes alongside of the core title. They obviously got the characters and had great love of  the source material.

Then Disney bought Marvel.

The Disney Licenses were yanked from Boom! which would have made sense…except neither Disney nor Marvel did anything with them. I would have understood if Disney was to start releasing it’s own muppet comics, but the closes they ever came to that was reprinting THESE untitledmstories in tabloid size editions.

If you’re a fan of the Muppets, hunt these down. They collected some into tades and those Disney collections are still around here and there. This is the best the Muppets have looked since the original TV show.


Spider-Man loves Mary Jane

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I first discovered this at a Target in a tabloid edition. It was the first mini series (four issues) and cost about $5.00. I grabbed it thinking it was Spidey related and I’d save it for my daughters.

I never expected to get hooked.

See, Mary Jane is a tough sell for me. She’s far too often superficial, vacuous. Kirsten Dunst’s portrayal of her in the Raimi movies is a perfect example. I hate her. I know it’s the Nerd-gets-the-girl cliché, but I just can’t stand her.

This series takes a different approach. It’s the Spidey universe through the eyes of a High School MJ. She still lapses into superficiality sometimes but you can see there’s more there and it’s a really great look at the Spider-Man story from a different angle.

The characters are all there, Flash is still a jerk, Harry is a bit of an amalagam of the comics and the movies (which, to be fair, NEEDED to happen) and Peter Parker is a bit more a nerd than usual. Makes sense from MJ’s POV. Liz is actually a lot spunkier than I recall and Gwen Stacy is portrayed as a bit of a spaz. The differences work though and somehow, Sean McKeever  REALLY pulls it all together in this engaging package that I just couldn’t put down, finding myself eagerly awaiting the next month’s issue.

The initial four-issue miniseries, Mary Jane, originally intended as an ongoing series, began publication in June 2004 under the Marvel Age imprint, a line of comic books by Marvel Comics aimed at younger readers. a second four-issue miniseries, Mary Jane: Homecoming, which began publication in March 2005. Unlike the first series, Homecoming was not published under the Marvel Age imprint, but as a regular Marvel Comics title, because Marvel Age had by then been restructured into the Marvel Adventures imprint. a second four-issue miniseries, Mary Jane: Homecoming, which began publication in March 2005. Unlike the first series, Homecoming was not published under the Marvel Age imprint, but as a mjregular Marvel Comics title, because Marvel Age had by then been restructured into the Marvel Adventures imprint.

Unfortunately the series ended with issue #20 when McKeever left for an exclusive DC contract. An attempt was made to revive it but it never felt the same. The last series was cancelled after five issues. I jumped ship after two. A real drag for me as well, because for two years this WAS my Spider-Man title. It was the only one I was getting. Better than anything going on in the flagship title.

Still you can find the first and second series in digest form and I really recommend them. I’ve even see the first one at the Library in the Manga section. You may want to check it out first before deciding if you want to commit to hunting down the last twenty issues of that third series…(but trust me…you do!)


The Marvelous Adventures of Gus Beezer

best893487-1I always liked this title but it suffers far too much from comparison to Calvin and Hobbes. This isn’t Calvin and Hobbes, it lacks the satirical wit that was aimed at adults. This is far more kid driven – but it’s GOOD kid driven.

Gus is a little boy with an active imagination who loves comic books and superheros- of course t he big difference is that he lives in the Marvel universe where there actually ARE superheros!

He sometimes lets his imagination get away from him and it begins to intrude on his real life…playing with his sisters jump rope and pretending she’s the lizard…

It was a fine series and was reprinted in tabloid size under the Marvel Adventures banner  to be sold in Targets but never went any further than it’s original four issue run. You may find some of these still floating around. It’s worth it just to see his tirade at J. Jonah Jameson over his Spider-man editorials…..gus2


Agent Carter

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agent-carter_612x816These days, I tend to gravitate far more to film than I do to TV. I just don’t watch that much anymore. Some of that has to do with the serialized nature of modern television as opposed to the stand-alone episodic format I grew up with. Having to sit down at the same time every week is difficult for me.

That may have been one of the reason Agents of SHIELD was such a challenge for me. I wasn’t invested and quite frankly, I kept forgetting that it was on, although I’d stop and watch it if I happened to find it while flipping channels  if it was near the beginning.

I’ve been aware of the hype behind Agent Carter but wasn’t really planning on watching it. It seemed like more of the same, and my attitude was the similar, that I would probably watch it if I happened across it while flipping channels.

Amazingly, that’s exactly what happened.

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I urlreally like that this has such a firm connection to Captain America : the first Avenger. I remember spending a lot of the early day in SHIELD expecting it to feel more like a spin off of the Avengers, but it never really managed to feel like a proper sequel. In this show however, we see carter browsing that Steve rogers file that was shown at the end of the first Cap movie, and we even get a flashback to it. This is exactly the kind of payoff I wanted and it makes it feel very connected.

I love Howard Stark in this. I really wish we’d see more of him, but I suspect that’s not going to happen and that’s a shame really, even a mentor part – a bookend to the episodes would really work well for me. It’s my hope that if this series goes somewhere that he will become a regular member of the cast after his name is cleared.

There are nice touches here. I happen to love this era and I’m really focusing on that. Throughout the episode we hear bits of a Captain America radio play which is another one of those agent-carter-768great ties to the character, not to mention being a good juxtaposition between the perception of the agent – the Myth and the actual person. It’s not subtle by any means, but it fits, rather than the forced way Agents of SHIELD used to try and shoehorn a reference to “Gamma Radiation” or “Stark Industries” in every episode. Indeed, a lot of Agent Carter works in great part I thin, because the producers have better learned how to put a show like this together, and have a better feel for what the fans want, and how to tie it to the cinematic universe while grounding it for a broader audience.

If you like Agents of SHIELD, then It’s safe to say you’ll like this. They are both very much the same genre, while each having their own distinct personality and it’s interesting to see that Marvel is really developing their own sub-genres here, their own CSI franchise if you will.  While Agents of SHIELD wasn’t my thing, I do believe I will probably follow this one all the way to the end. The fact that there is an end helps for me, and I can more  easily make a commitment to seven episodes than I can to 22 and beyond.


Superheroes vs the Cleveland Pops

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Summer is almost over and this weekend here in my hometown of Elyria there was a free concert by Cleveland Pops.

And a bunch of Superheroes.

The city coordinated the Orchestra’s visit with a local volunteer group called Superheroes to Kids in Ohio who work with kids in hospitals and terminally ill patients. They introduced sets and worked the crowd as the orchestra played selections from superhero films such as Avengers, The Dark Knight and Spider-Man. There was even a Frozen set.

This was a good time, in the middle of the city, surrounded by superheros, with the orchestral score playing in the background and fireworks in the sky. It’s also EXACTLY the sort of thing Elyria needs more of.

Happy Labor Day.

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By the way, even though it’s Labor Day there IS still a new Violent Blue up today!


Days of Future Past

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1Finally got around to seeing Days of Future Past.

Here’s the thing, I’m not into the X-Men movies. I liked the X-Men in the early 90’s when it was over the top superhero action. I’ve never been a fan of Wolverine. At that point, there really isn’t a whole lot in these films for me. Worse yet, they just get more and more depressing every time. One was okay, but frustrating because of how much it deviated from any know continuity. Two was actually okay. Fun. The bit about Wolverine killing soldiers bothered me a little but otherwise okay. X3 was just depressing and grim. I gave up after that. I saw Wolverine Origins, but not in the theatre, and I thought it was okay…but mediocre. I didn’t even bother with the Wolverine or First class.

First class bothers me actually because I really don’t like this version of Xavier and I don’t want a version of Professor X that is unlikable.

Really, the X films are all about Professor X and Wolverine. More importantly, they are all about Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman. The return of Steward and Ian Mackellan on screen with Jackman is a welcome return to form.

It’s interesting, even though I haven’t seen First Class, I can feel it being integrated here, like two different franchises coming together. A real Avengers vibe. The story deviates miles from the comics, but by now we’ve pretty much accepted that the movies are their own continuity and like I said, these films are about Wolverine and Professor X.

We’re pretty much into full costume mode these days (as opposed to the original film when the fashion was still to try as hard as possible to deny you were in a superhero film), so I don’t understand why they don’t just use comic accurate suits, but the look is very cool. Some of the dopey elements like the fans in the sentinels ake sense when you see them on screen.

There’s not much to complain about here. I still don’t like MacAvoy’s Xavier, but I think I actually may enjoy Michael Fastbender’s Magneto more than Ian Mackellans. It’s enough to get me to pull The Wolverine out to watch it and maybe even anticipate the next film a bit! No small feat. It’s still in theatres, so catch it on the big screen while you still can.

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Captian America : The Winter Soldier

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cap1I finally got around to seeing Captain America this weekend. I know I’m lat to this party, but you know me, I don’t visit movie theaters that are less than 70 years old. The Lorain Palace was showing it in 3d for 5.00 (as opposed to a 2d matinée  at a normal theatre for 7.50 at least).

Here’s the thing. The Winter Soldier isn’t a superhero movie. Sure they try to fool you with some big set pieces in the beginning and the end, but make no mistake, this is not a superhero movie. It’s a political thriller – and really, that’s exactly what you would expect from Robert Redford in this role. With SHIELD infiltrated by Hydra, there’s far more intrigue than simple action here. I almost wonder if it’s too elevated for the subject matter.

cap2I was really complementary about the first Cap film. I stand by my opinion that it was the best Superhero film I’d seen in a good decade. I revisited it recently and found it’s not as rewatchable as I had hoped. It’s still as good, but I can’t return to it again and again like I can with The Avengers. It makes me wonder if this film will have a similar feel. It’s an awfully complicated story for casual viewing.

Speaking of The Avengers – I’m having some issues with Scarlet Johansson and the way she plays Black Widow.

It’s not that I don’t like her in the role, I’m perfectly fine with the casting, but it seems like she never plays it the same way twice…does she just forget how the character is played every time? I also wonder if that’s part of the act….that she has so many faces, so many identities that all of them are false. If that’s the case then it really should be a little cleared. perhaps I am just over cap4thinking this, but in her third time out it’s beginning to get to me. In the end she just comes off as really bland.

They also try to play up her dark past in this film. it seems a little late to be getting to this. We kind of acknowledge it in the Avengers, but it’s just in one line. Here it’s far more explicitly stated but feels like it’s too little too late – either tacked on for the fans or an afterthought to try and enhance what has always been a secondary character.

There’s a LOT of Cleveland in this film. This always takes me out of the movie a bit, I’ve spent a lot of time downtown professionally and I recognize so much of what we see here. That is one of the greatest car chases ever, but I know some of those streets. The scene in the mall is crazy. I take my daughters to those fountains. I buy coffee at that stand! I’ve done work in that building cap5they’re keeping the Winter Soldier in….

Falcon is a nice addition in this film by the way. It’s a good origin story for him and he really has chemistry with Cap. I’m actually looking forward to seeing him in the next film…and let’s face it, they telegraphed the sequel. Then again, the commercials really gave away a lot of plot points, and I found myself waiting for stuff to happen. On the other hand it also let me know that I WAS going to see the familiar red white and blue costume for part of this movie and not just the slick blue and silver Captain-America-The-Winter-Soldier-Cap-Golden-Age-versionone. I was pleased that it was a full third of the film.

Interestingly enough, all the commercials and memes and internet chatter I was sure Nick Fury was going to really die in this. It was interesting that all of the spoilers actually hit me in reverse…

I really liked this film and can’t wait to see the next one.

Well, you know,  after I see Superman vs. Batman.

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By the way, we’ll be spending the whole week over at Violent Blue celebrating the new Cap film. Check it out! the first strip is up here : http://www.violentblue.thecomicseries.com/comics/680

 

 


NightMask

This month we’re taking a look at an old favorite of mine, a title called Nightmask.

nm 86You may have seen a newer version of Nightmask floating around a few years ago as part of a series Marvel was referring to as “New Universal”. This was a re-imagining of it’s old “New Universe” where the superheros weren’t quite as super….

The New Universe was separate from the Marvel  616 universe. Technically it’s universe 555, but then again, back in the 80’s when this was being published, Marvel hadn’t really come up with the concept of a multiverse yet. Powers in the New universe were usually PSI based, grounded more in reality (or at least our current understanding of the paranormal as opposed to the fantastic nature of Spider-Man or Thor)

Of the New Universe titles, I always found Nightmask the most compelling. Keith Remsen and his sister survived an explosion which killed their parents and put Theodora in a wheelchair, but also helped unleash their telepathic powers to enter other people’s dreams. They spend the eleven issues helping people through dreams (where Keith appears as a superhero – Teddy is more an anchor – like Professor Stein in Firestorm) and occasionally unraveling mysteries.

This was during Jim Shooters era where most stories had to be resolved in one issue so it’s easy to pick up one of these and get a good feel for the character. I can see why it didn’t last, but it still intrigues me. I was disappointed that the reboot completely left these characters behind, I’d like to see more of them, especially now, grown up in the 21st century.

I found almost all of these in the fifty cent bin at Astonish! comics back in the 90’s. They may be harder to track down these days, but I almost guarantee you they’ll be bargain priced.  The next time you do some online shopping at a comic site like Mile High, check a few of these out and ad them to the order. They’re great light reading and a really interesting comic alternative.


Halloween Comicfest

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As I mentioned yesterday, we did the Halloween Comicfest over at Carol and John’s Comic shop.

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hcf_logoLike on Free Comic book Day, publishers release special editions with the Halloween Comic Fest logo on them and these are distributed for free at participating retailers. It’s a way to especially get kids into comic shops these days. I’m still plowing my way through the stack of free comics I got, along with a couple I bought while I was there (I hate just showing up, grabbing the free stuff and leaving. Same as on Free comic book day, we make it a point to buy SOMETHING – even if just a couple issues from the quarter bin or dollar boxes), but here are some of my favorites so far….New_STK621002

Batman : Lil’Gotham.

I really haven’t been into this series. I suppose it’s fair to say it’s not aimed at me. Even worse, Damien is still alive in it and I hat him with such passion it’s unreasonable. There’s also something just ….wrong about cute gothamites. Batman villains just aren’t supposed to be…chibi.

This has some great moments in it though. Damien being completely unfamiliar with trick or treating so he goes and attacks kids in costumes….

it works as a fun kids book and was naturally one of the centerpieces of this years selections.

New_STK622248There was a My Little Pony book this year. I actually made a point to get to the comic shop kind of early In the day just to make sure I could snag this for my girls. Bronys are unpredictable and I could have easily seen this one getting sold out before we could manage to get in the shop. Thankfully, not only did both of my girls get a copy, I even got one myself.  It’s a reprint of one of the stories form earlier this year, but it’s a good bit of the story and nicely scary – appropriate for Halloween.

Interestingly enough, this wasn’t the only pony book out there this year.

New_STK621297Another book called “Vamplets” was out with a kind of “Ghostly Pony” look to it. I almost missed the thing entirely until Maddie pointed it out to me. This and the My Little Pony books are bothe mini comics – about half the size of a normal one. Ashcans we used to call them.  A lot of the kids stuff was set up this way.  Still, fun books and perfect for Halloween.

Next up is Art Baltazar’s new book. I know, I keep gravitating towards the kids New_STK621021stuff, but Ity bitty Hellboy is just not to be missed. I really loved Tiny Titians, and this is just more of the same only with different characters. In fact, I’m not always into Hellboy that much, but this book was too much fun for words.

I did get through the Thor issue they had available and would actually really like to hear someone else comment on it. I’m not a big fan of Thor in the first place – he appeal has always mystified me, and lately a lot of his titles really seem to emphasize the elements of him that I really don’t like in the first place- most notably the big dumb football player personality with the big chin and no neck….and this issue is no exception. It sets up a new story arc about someone or something who is going around the cosmos killing small “g” gods. It’s an interesting enough concept, but with no investment in the character and STK622037_TNa general dislike for beings who refer to themselves as gods or pantheon mythology in general this one really didn’t do a whole lot for me. Sorry guys. Like I said, I’d love to hear someone who’s a Thor fan chime in on this one. If I find something elsewhere, I may reblog it.

My last pick from the pack was Ultimate Spider-Man. This isn’t the actually Ultimate Spidey as in the Ultimate universe, or the Bendis run, this is more based on the cartoon that Disney and Marvel are currently running. I’ve watched it with my kids, it’s okay, and a good attempt to bring Spidey in to the Avenger’s universe. The book is divided into New_STK622038two features, beginning with an origin story, told as Spidey fights off the Shocker. Meh. The second feature where Spidey is shadowing an LMD of Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury is much more fun. Inside are also a couple of one page gags where they’ve taken a page from the original Stan Lee/Steve Ditko comics and redone the text pull things completely out of context. A really fun book.

Carl and John’s went the extra mile as well, also handing out candy and bookmarks and buttons (with Itty Bitty Hellboy on them). I’m really enjoying Halloweenfest, and I love that it makes Free Comic Book Day come twice a year now!

 

 

 

 


The Solution

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Malibu_Comics_logoIn retrospect, I really believe that Malibu should never have gotten into superhero comics.

For a very long time, back through the 80’s they have a very good business model, similar to Dark Horse. They republished old comics, ran licensed properties and published titles for other companies. In fact, Image comics stated as an imprint published through Malibu (That’s why you get vol1 and vol 2 of titles like Youngblood and Wild CATS – the first volume was published through Malibu). Image would later pick up on Malibu’s old 258450-73907-ultraversestrategy and publish books for indie artists at a flat rate depending on the length of the run (Brian Michale Bendis did a lot of his books through Image this way. MVCreations  published the first run of He-Man and the Master’s of the Universe this ways as well).

But during the comics boom of the 90’s, everyone wanted a shared superhero universe and Malibu threw thier hat in the ring with the Ultraverse. Many of us remember Ultraverse heroes like Prime, drawn by Norm Breyfogel or Nightman, who had a brief and ill conceived TV series created by Glen Larson (of Knight Rider and Buck Rogers fame).

Not a lot of people remember the Solution. I don’t even remember seeing this on the racks in the 90’s. The series ran 18 issues and I’ve since found all of them in quarter bins.

The Solution are heroes for hire, willing to take missions for a fee. In Russia, nuclear bases are being attacked by Quattro, f33842-5152-37785-1-solution-the_superour ultra-powered mercenaries, and their nuclear warheads are stolen. Meanwhile, the Solution are in Hong Kong fighting the Dragon Fang, the world’s largest Triad group (and the people who stole The Solution’s leader’s fathers company. This is a vendetta). Eventually, an agent of the KGB tries to hire the Solution to stop Quattro from keeping the warheads.

Tech is the leader, in combat she’s your standard guns and ammo kind of girl, but what sets her apart are her skills as a hacker. She has wetware tech implants in her skull that allow her to cyberpunk any computer system wirelessly (and this was back in the days before broadband or wireless internet.)

Shadowmage is, predictably, their mage. She’s a trans dimensional being and In ever exactly caught onto where she was from – part of the Ultraverse continuity I wasn’t familiar with I think. Their brute Vurk is also inhuman, an alien who has a counterpart on the bad guys team. Finally there’s Dropkick, their martial artist.

Despite seeming like a cookie cutter superhero team, this group actually works together well and I suspect there was some thought put into what kind of Arch types to compile here. Tech is a reasonably original concept, and one not used a whole lot even today.

I like this series, but it is standard superhero fare. There’s some fresh ideas, but not enough to ever expect to see this title ressurected. Marvel bough out all the Ultraverse characters in  1994, for the sole purpose of keeping the Ultraverse out of DC’s hands.  DC wanted to buy the Ultraverse.  Marvel felt that a DC/Ultraverse  competitor was too much of a threat at the time, and would knock them down to the number two publisher in the field. Qusada has adamantly said marvel won’t do anything with The ultraverse, and even though he’s not really in control over at marvel any longer, it’s a fair guess that The Solution is gone forever. Still, they left us 18 great issues to enjoy. In fact, I think I’ll go grab a couple of those after I finish some Violent Blue here….


Trinity of Sin

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Trinity-of-SinI had the dubious honor of playing in a game against the Trinity of Sin this weekend over at Comics are Go!. The game actually turned out to be a three way game, and for the most part, it was two teams trying to take down the Trinity.

What’s the worst thing about playing against the Trinity? It’s not the massive 16 click dial. It’s not even the tough 19 defense it starts out with. It’s not even the occasional poison trait. That only comes up occasionally, when Pandora’s face shows up on the dial. No, the worst part of this thing is the horrifying feedback damage from the mystics keyword. Instead of the normal one click, if you keep all your figures on the team base, you take two clicks of damage every time you make a successful attack.1FCBDthor

Big Mike came in fast and hard with some heavy hitters, hoping to knock down that damage before the feedback destroyed him. I had a similar idea and really thought long and hard  about adding the FCBD Thor to my team. He starts off with a 5 damage and an 11 attack. The problem is, even if he hurdles that 19 defense, he only gets one hit at 5 damage and that’s a charge. Not only is that feedback going to knock his damage down to 4, but he’s also stuck being poisoned knocking him down even further, not to mention being in the line of fire for anyone using pulse wave – a go-to power for dealing with Mystics.

3699I think Pulse Wave could have worked here actually, but so slowly with that one damage at a time trying to chip away at that deep dial. I pulled my Composite Superman and played him at the 80 point level, then pushed him one click where he goes into Pulse wave fro a couple of clicks. Unfortunately, I deployed him badly, then got distracted trying to pick up a Kurreth’s Hammer and got based, then blasted.

My main strategy for dealing with the Trinity ended up being Blackheart. He’s a hefty piece, but he’s a mystic too, and any time he takes damage it would feedback on the Trinity- a good start.

The main reason I choose Blackheart though, was his pets. He comes with two detachable gargoyles. When he mcl1V_DXewdKofWJWVpQntwuses his power of Dark Thunder, a gargoyle detaches and becomes a bystander with it’s own attack and defense and movement. When it’s KOed, it returns to the Blackheart base where it can be summoned again.  I barely moved Black heart all game – in fact the only time he moved is when the red Gargoyle TKed him away from Trinity (on Mike’s suggestion – thanks!). I kept pulling up the gargoyles, placing them in front of Blackheart to protect him from ranged, then the red one would TK the blue one over to Trinity where it would attack. Trinity would then have to destroy it or take poison – taking one of Trinity’s actions. tumblr_mebxcyxotz1r75v8vo1_1280If there was no blue, the red one would make a ranged attack while Blackheart generated another blue one. My allies on the other side would perlex down that massive 19 defense to make it more manageable and I’d keep hitting, which would destroy the gargoyle but never give damage to Blackheart who would just pop another out. It chipped away at the Trinity dial while he was mopping up the other team.

It was fairly effective. We got the dial down to click 11, and I know I couldn’t have done that on my own. That’s why I said it was nice to play this as a three way game.  It gave us both a chance. Still, that Trinity of Sin is a monster piece.

I did find one thing cute. Every time I’d detach the gargoyles, they don’t stand well on their own. They would topple over and I would just lay them on their side. When I’d TK  the blue one over to Trinity, I’d lean it up by Phantom Stranger and say it was nuzzling him. If you can’t beat ’em, annoy them!

stranger

Okay, now that you’ve read that comic, head over to Violent Blue. We’ve got a new strip up today and meet us back here tomorrow!


Video Game Parents

gamerA question has been occurring to me lately.

It first came to mind when Maddie and I were playing Gauntlet on the M.A.M.E. cabinet on night. Maddie frequently asks to play games with me on the rebuilt arcade machine, mostly the Marvel vs. DC M.U.G.E.N. game, but also things like Marble Madness or Crusin’.

100_0956This night she had asked for a co-op game, especially one with a princess. Gauntlet seemed to be the best solution and we played through dozens of levels.

The next time the question came to mind was when I was playing a game of Heroclix over at Comics are Go! in Sheffield. I had brought out some of my custom objects to play with the game pieces – an old 7-Up machine, a cigarette vendor and an X-Men 4 player arcade cabinet. We were talking about how dumb it was that no one ever ported this game over to any arcade 1platform of the day or even to PC-CD (Though I’m told it’s finally available for ps3. Is that correct?) I mentioned that my daughter and I had played through the entire thing on my M.A.M.E cabinet.

So what’s the question? Here it is.

Are we the first generation of parents to use video games to bond with our kids?

It’s a devilishly simple question….and not as straightforward as it seems.

Sure parents probably played some video games with their kids, but how often? How did it fit into their 1795077relationship? It’s still a reasonably new medium thought that’s getting easier and easier to forget. One of the developers in the documentary “Indie Game” pointed out that this generation – people born around/after 1975-1980 grew up with games as a normal part of their life. It wasn’t a novelty, it wasn’t an occasional activity, just popping a quarter in if you happened to be at the pizza parlor or something. We had Atari’s and Nintendos and probably played a little bit on most days.

When we first got an Atari 2600, my parents played a little bit with me, but the novelty soon wore off for them and they moved on. For the most part, I played games alone or occasionally with friends. I imagine that was the case with most kids. Some dads here and there would get addicted to Zelda or Mario and perhaps they would take turns, but those are really single player experiences, not bonding games. The documentary “The Ecstasy of Order” describes a 100_0957couple of families where they would competitively play Tetris, but again, one at a time, posting the score on a whiteboard or refrigerator.

Here’s the thing. I’m not a gamer. Not in the least. If you really stretch the definition, you might be able to label me as a retrogamer (one of the reasons I made Steve in Violent Blue one – at least that way I can know a little more about what I’m talking about). I enjoy classic games, and archive as many as I cam using emulators. I have a paticular love of old arcade games up through the 32-bit era. They tend to be short and the M.A.M.E. rampagedcabinet gives me unlimited virtual quarters and that’s a good thing because more often than not, I don’t have the patience to finish a game. I complete a game on my PC or DS approximately once every year or two. The last one I did was the new version of Y’s ….and that doesn’t exactly count since it’s just a rehash of the game I beat on my Sega Master System twenty years ago. I’m pretty sure I will beat the Spirit Camera game Amy got me, but even that three hour game has stretched out for months!

When I was a teenager  I played every day, as an adult, I play games once a week or less…which brings me back to my point : NOT a gamer.

105_3776Having kids kind of changed that. I play more often now, because when they ask to play a game with me, I don’t want to say no. They won’t always be around to play games with me. When I built the M.A.M.E cabinet, I intentionally built in two controllers because I knew my kids would be playing games on it some day. Maddie and Lydia race against me in Mario Kart on our DS’s and pass around the tablet for the Hungry Shark game. We fight on Marvel vs. DC and on the old Capcom games, we co-op on Magic Sword. We play on the Genesis hooked up in the Livingroom (although those games actually don’t look that great on the HD TV) and Maddie has discovered she likes Scorpion best in Mortal Kombat.

Video games with Daddy has always been a part of their lives.

See?

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In Defense of The Punisher

defense

Punisher-FilmsA while back I mentioned that I was a fan of all the Punisher movies, though if I had to pick my favorite, it would be the Thomas Jane movie.

Really the big issue here is I think they are out of order. If you shuffle them around a bit, an arc begins to appear. Let’s do these in my order, starting with the Jane movie.

2_midiI know it’s an origin movie, but much like I do with the first Spider-Man movie, I usually start this guy in about halfway through so we have the origin out of the way. Still, that’s important to what I’m observing. The movie serves to tell us where Frank is coming from. It shows his tragedy and his immediate reaction, a lashing out at the gangsters who killed his family.

This film begins his descent into madness. You see him still in touch with humanity though, through the people in his apartment building, but even then – he’s pulling away. You know when he disappears, he’s gone for good.

10726451_galThis brings us to the Dolph Lundgren film.

Poor Dolph has constantly been blamed for the failure of this film. I couldn’t disagree more. sure, he could be a little more articulate, but then again, her dosen’t really need to be does he? The Punisher speaks rarely, and then only when there ‘s something important to say.

The costume has been blamed as well. This really isn’t a bad costume. I miss the skull. I do. Sometimes you’ll hear people talk about how the clever director shaded Dolph’s face so you could see the skull there. I think that’s overstating it a bit, but I understand. We also tend to forget just HOW different this costume was at the time. The modern Punisher wears a costume very similar to what we see Lundgren in, but back in the 80’s he was still in spandex like every other hero, with white boots and gloves.  This costume was really a bit of a shock to the fanboys. Still it was a time period when it was fashionable to do superhero movies and change the costume completely.

vlcsnap-2010-03-01-02h20m36s5The skull isn’t completely absent either, we do see it on the daggers Frank uses, but ti still would have been nice to see on printed on his T-Shirt – everything else the same.

No, what sinks this movie is the script. The more I watch it, the more i think this wasn’t written to be a Punisher movie, but rather just another low budget action flick, re-written to make it into the Punisher movie.

Having the Yakuza as the villain is a bizarre choice for a movie that’s trying to introduce a character to the public. it’s suited far more for a sequel. The dialogue is clumsy and the disgraced thespian turned alcoholic informant is just annoying.

It’s not all bad though. The “B” story with the Frank’s old partner seeking him out is very well done, probably the best part of the film. Louis Gosset Jr grounds the movie and gives us someone to relate to. I personally imagine he’s the same African American guy from the first movie who did the initial drug bust with Frank  that resulted in Travolta’s son’s death. If you can get your hands on the workprint of this you really ought to. It shows far more range on Lundgrens part – there’s more flashbacks to before Frank became the Punisher, several which are referenced in the final cut. I understand that they mostly make the running time longer and drag the pace a bit but several things make more sense in it too.

Imagine now, that it’s been five years since the first movie. Frank is now living alone in the sewer, completely separated from humanity. his descent into madness is complete and he has little or no human contact. He’s dropped weight, note eating right, never venturing to the surface world except to kill. The sum of his human encounters is that once in a while he pumps an informant for information, but that’s strictly business, not personal. He is singly concentrating on wiping out the mob, and he’s almost succeeded, but his madness is wild, unfocused.

It takes the kidnapping of the mobsters children by the Yakuza to bring him back into the human race. He comes out to rescue them in the process encountering his old partner. He begins to see the need for human contact, for relationships. Perhaps he even sees the benefits tactically. That will lead him to build more contacts and wage his war on crime more effectively. MV5BMTM4OTQyODk0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzQwNDQwMg@@._V1._SY317_CR0,0,214,317_Something we see in full swing in the next film : War Zone.

In War Zone, even more time has passed. The stated body count has increased from the Lundgren film. In this movei we see Frank has built a support structure both in his police contact Soap and his armoror Microchip. Micro’s supplies have helped fortify the sewer that Frank is still linvign in and probably helped him be a more efficiant killing machine. Now with his madness and rage fous insted of wild like the Lundgren movie, we see a more human Punisher, deadlier than ever. Children are still his best connection to humanity thoguh and we see that again here, a theme continued from the Lundgren movie. It fits best this way.

It’s a pity the way War Zone was received. The director has stated being frustrated by the cries of over the top violence in this movie (see my upcoming  article on Judge Dredd for my opinions on what constitutes Ultra-Violence. This movie has a lot of kills, but not a lot of gore) when the critics didn’t understand she was coping most of those scenes almost panel for panel from the comics.

I don’t mind this movie, but I do think Ray Stevenson gets a little too chatty for the Punisher and the mistake of his, killing the undercover agent, which drives a lot of the story just turns me right off. I think it was poor choice. The Punisher doesn’t make those kind of mistakes, and if he dose, he doesn’t get this emo over it.

It was great to see Jigsaw here. I think he should have appeared earlier in the series, but then again, I suppose I understand why he didn’t. It’s a pity they made him so loony. Really a shame. It damages the character a little too much and combined with the other factors just drags the movie down when it could have been so much better. Still it serves as  a good final chapter in this series. As I said, there’s a definite arc here and I could easily consider this an unintentional trilogy.  It’s a pity there no more movies coming our way any time soon, but you can bet that the next time the Punisher hits the Silver screen, I’ll be there watching… and trying to see wher tit will fit in this list.


Amazing

Movie bannerI kind of delebritaly avoided “The Dark Knight Rises” this summer because I’ve never been a fan of where the nolan batman films were headed and this more than most, seemed to be something I wouldn’t enjoy.

amazing-spider-man-movie-poster“The Amazing Spider-man” was a whole other story.  I fully intended to go see it….if it came my way to a cheap theatre. That is to say,  I wasn’t going out of my way to go see it, but  I wouldn’t kick it out of bed if it showed up. It was never my intention to wait until it came out on DVD, but that’s just what happened. I had been adamant that a reboot wasn’t really the way to go and never liked the suit (even though we used it in Violent Blue last year)so I wasn’t anticipating this move the way I had Spider-films of the past.

Part of me wants to say this movie was middle of the road. The problem is that’s not true. middle of the road suggests it never reaches any heights, but never really disappoints either. That’s not the case here. This movie gets some things VERY right, and some things EXTREMELY wrong. It hits middle of the road by averaging, not by keeping a steady pace. Come to  think of it, I believe middle of the road might have been preferable.

What they get right:

Peter Parker.

Absolutely. One of the things I always hated about Raimi’s Spider-Man was Tobey Maguire as Pete. The funny thing is that Tobey was great as Spidey, but not as Peter. His Parker was too much of a loser. I couldn’t really root for him and that bugged me. Of course Raimi’s Peter was based more on the Parker of the late 60’s and early 70’s. I grew up with the Peter of the late 70’s and early 80’s – a more self-assured Peter, in college, with more of a friendship with Flash, and Harry there for comic relief. I loved the Peter of the 90’s He was a wallflower made good. The rejected and put-upon loser who grew into his looks, got a good job  and married a supermodel. that’s the Peter I like. It’s not the one Rami likes. That’s fine. He makes better movies than me anyhow.

Andrew Garfield really gives me a Peter I can root for. he’s not a geek, he’s more like….invisible. Not into sports so that’s a strike against him, and no one cares if he likes to take pictures or not. He’s just a nobody. i like that. It’s more enjoyable to watch someone who’s just awkward than it is to watch someone who’s delebritly playing a character from “Revenge of the Nerds” (a reason I never liked Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent – Brandon Routh was a far better Kent, and George Reeves was the best). This Peter is compelling and I never got tired of watching him.

The other thing this movie gets right is the effects. Raimi is just used to using low tech effects. I understand, but I believe he never really utilized his budget the way he could have effects-wise. His CGI was all really straightforward. There were times when he abandoned them altogether, like when the Green Goblin is talking to Norman Osborne in the mirror (that really should have been a more dynamic greenscreen shot). This movie on the other hand TRIES to impress us with it’s effects – things like the CG door lock and displays, it uses special effects more creatively, and that’s something I credit to it being handled by a different kind of director.

Speaking of better effects, I LOVE the new web shooters. I especially love the flash of light every time he blasts a web out. That’s one of those effects  that’s just inspired. I hope the comics copy this look.

Finally, I love what they did with Gwen Stacy. This was a genuinely good updating of the character. She’s well-realized, likable, and still completely out of Peter’s league. I realize the waste of the character in “Spider-Man 3” was due more to studio interference (at least I assume it was. Critical of him as I am, I give Raimi more credit than that) Raimi still could have portrayed her better. She didn’t need to look like she had stepped right out of 1968….and in Amazing, she doesn’t

What they got wrong :

Spider-Man

That’s a biggie. For a movie called “The Amazing Spider-Man” you really need to get Spidey right. This doesn’t even come close.

For every bit as good as Garfield is at being Peter Parker, that’s how bad he is as Spidey.  It’s a good thing then, as I stated above that I liked his Peter Parker so much. I’d rather see him work out of costume than in it.

The costume is a big part of it. Raimi got the costume right. He just….did. There was no good reason to change it, and the changes they made I think were poorEyes choices.

The eyes especially. They’re dark and foreboding. The colors are muted and darker hues. that’s not who Spidey is. he’s not a dark and gritty avenger of the night, he’s your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.  That costume should be bright, and it looks GREAT in the daylight, not shrouded in darkness like we see here. He needs big friendly eyes and quirky elastic movements and a friendly voice that cracks wise when he’s fighting. I see none of that here. You know that one moment in EVERY commercial where Spidey mocks the guy for pulling a knife on him? You know why that’s there? Because it’s the ONLY funny quip we get from Spidey. I need more. When I’d rather watch Peter Parker than Spider-Man, you know we’ve got a problem.

I wasn’t thrilled with the origin either. Maybe that’s a little unfair, and I believe that’s mostly because I’ve seen it done better  in the Rami movies, in the cartoons…even in the God-awful broadway musical. That’s a bit I could take or leave.

may 001Aunt May. Who oh why did they cast Sally Field? You know what she does best? She makes strained, agonized faces and acts helpless. And boy does she do a bunch of that in this movie. Peter once said “One day, they’ll find a way to bottle the strength of Parker women” and that’s the key to understanding Aunt May. She’s frail and old and vulnerable, but under all of that is a strength and a will that just amazes you. That’s missing from Field’s May. Her Aunt May is just….empty and sad. I hate it.

I’m hoping for much better with the sequel. Let’s face it, Sony’s not going to stop making Spider-man movies any time soon. It’s my sincere hope that they understand what doesn’t work from this incarnation and stop trying to make another “Dark Knight”

In the mean time, I’m going to pop in the old movies and punctuate them with a few of the CG cartoon episodes from MTV.

Pages from Amazing Spider-Man 519 and Spider-Man 22

Top Five Marvel movie heros

Time for a top five list I think. The glut of comic book movies hasn’t slowed down yet, though the tone is changing (https://argocitycomics.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/the-future-of-comic-book-movies/) and I decided to think about who my favorite movie heros were. Not from DC, that’s way to narrow a playing field, even if you include the vertigo stuff. Marvel however, has been pushing out every possible character into this new movie universe of thiers, along with the unprecedented move of making it a definitively shared universe (as opposed to a suggested shared universe suchas the hints we get that movies like Soldier and Prometheus are in the same universe as Blade Runner or the tease in Predator 2 about being in the same universe with Aliens) with the Avengers.

Spider-Man2002PosterI was surprised to find a lot of these favorites would be mirrored by my favorite Marvel characters in general and quality of the films has little to do with it…..

Spider-Man

Specifically the Rami version. There were some problems here, I never liked the idea that every villain had to be related to Spidey somehow and I wasn’t always fond of Tobeys Peter Parker – on the other hand it was a perfect 60’s-70-‘s Peter (i preferred the 80’s – 90’s versions) but he made a perfect Spidey and the suit was the best we’ve seen. Andrew Garfield makes a better Peter, but that’s about all he’s got going for him.

2_midiThe Punisher

No real specific one. People like to drag Dolph Lundgren through the mud about this role and blame him largely for the failure of his Punisher film. I find that completely unfair, and pretty inaccurate. He dis a good job on the character in my opinion, probably a better job that  Ray Stevenson even. Really, I actually like all the actors to play this character equally, though if I had to pick one, it would be Thomas Jane simply because he had a better story to be in…..but that’s another whole blog post.

the avengers movie poster ironman tony stark robert downey jr marvel comics new official 2012Iron Man

This character is one I really enjoy DESPITE the movies. I’m not a fan of these films because there’s so little we see of Iron Man in the suit. I’ve complained endlessly about this elsewhere so i don’t need to rehash it here. On the other hand, Robert Downey Jr. inhabits the role. He’s perfect in it and actually, I think Avengers was this Iron Man’s finest hour. The character looks great on screen, and they consistently get him right. I just wish his solo movies were better.

Daredevil

215px-Daredevil_posterI think i’m one of the only people who actually like this movie. I really do, it’s on par with Tim Burton’s Batman to me. It has a similar feel, definitely a first movie, an introduction without getting mired down in an origin story. There’s a fascinating arch wit the character and they keep the tone dark and dirty as the best Daredevil comics are. Sure you can pan it because it’s an Affleck movie, but really, we don’t see much of him in it. He’s always hidden behind glasses or a mask. He dosen’t ACT like Ben Affleck either, no (well, few) T-Shirts and his attitude is kept in check – it’s actually a performance for a change and not him just playing well, Ben Affleck.

Wolverine

wolverinejackmannew3-thumb-504x800Obvious right? Not so much. If you know me, you know I don’t actually like Wolverine. His appeal baffles me. The key here is Hugh Jackman. Jackman has mad this character accessible to me somehow. He turned him into someone I’m actually interested in and that’s no mean trick, especially considering I didn’t enjoy most of the X-Men movies, in fact I never even bothered with First Class. I still have no love for him in the comics, and really didn’t want to put him on this list. Surely someone like Cap or Nick Fury was more deserving right? But when I come down to it, I found I really do like Jackmans Wolverine more than most other Marvel movie heroes.

Time to get back to work on Violent Blue. You know, I suspect that the characters in the strip would have very different lists  than I do too…..something to think about.


Last Weeks Pulls

comics

Spawn_224_pdf_000This week I dipped my toe in a bunch of titles that I haven’t been reading in a long time. The problem with doing this however, is you can feel like you just walked into the middle of a story and end up quite lost.

Spawn manages the feat of making me feel like I’m in the middle of a story I don’t quite understand while at the same time feeding me more of the same old same old. It’s more “Who do you work for????” “Jason Wynn!” “Wynn’s coming for you!” Chains, power  countdown timer, menace. I’ve seen all of t his before. On  the other hand, it’s been a long time since Spawn has been cutting edge. The most revolutionary thing they’ve done in the 21st century was to change the identity of the title character from Al Simmons to ….I don’t even know his name. Perhaps if I cared more….

On the plus side though, this has spectacular art. It’s very similar to Tim Bradstreet, very much like the dark noir look of the best modern Daredevil stories. Last week I mentioned that Jerry Ordway was one of my favorite artists. I’ve always favored a more realistic look to the dynamic, hyper stylized feel of a Liefield or McFarline drawing. This works really well. I’d love to see this guy do a Hellblazer or a Hellraiser.armyofdarkness700

Army of Darkness is always a fun title, but you have to understand, this series has strayed miles from the movies. That makes it easy to feel lost. The thing is though, they haven’t really done any world building. This isn’t a tight continuity. They seem afraid to move far from the established characters and continuity of the films, so we just wander from situation to situation without ever really creating a narrative.

When a female Ash arrived at the cabin (now floating in another dimension, at a causal nexus of some sort), I was really hoping they were making an attempt to integrate the new Evil Dead movie into this series. It would have been a smart move and all this talk of multiverses seemed to point that way. The cliffhanger makes it h01001nothingnovusclear that it’s not.

Finally there was Hawken : Genesis. Despite the fact that there are several gamers in my Violent Blue comic, I’m not one. I built myself a Pac Man Machine and decided I never had to buy another platform.

The point being, I had no idea this was based on a video game. It’s a great idea though. The art is stunning and the concepts are fascinating. I can absolutely see how this would completely flesh out a game world. These are very short stories, about half the size of a regular comic, but well worth it if you can track them down. I ended up having to go online to find the previous entry in the series.

Yd0v_UI also grabbed Extermination. This really seemed like just indie superhero fare, but seemed to get a little dramatic towards the end. I haven’t read enough of this series (this was the first time I’d noticed it) to know if it had earned that kind of theme. I think I’m too lazy to go back and find previous issues though.

I happen to love Sherlock Holmes. My grandmother introduced me to the character when I was a child, but I only really started to appreciate him when I was a teenager and rediscovering it in reading class. I wasn’t this comic to be good. i really do. It has Cwvz_Za beginning and and ending t hat both catch you, but the middle of this book just slogs on. It’s part one of a story so you almost want to give it some slack, but it just doesn’t keep my attention enough and the art in it is awful. Technically good drawing I suppose but it completely misses the soul of the characters and the era. I’m just not into it. I will probably get the second part of this, but it better get real good real quick or I’ll be dropping it.

Speaking of dropping, I think I’m done with new Valiant’s Bloodshot for a while. It’s not a bad book, it just isn’t my thing. I didn’t really get way into the original series and that may be having an effect on me. Archer and Armstrong on the other hand, continues to be a fun ride and genuinelyn_O2_Vl better than it’s predecessors. I like how they are trying to ease some world building into this series by introducing the Eternal Warrior and t he idea of the Geomancer in through this series – and it’s the perfect place for it. Armstrong always put me off a bit in the old Valiant, but I like him quite a bit in this incarnation. Maybe it’s the hair or the better dress sense. I don’t know.

The Green Hornet on the other hand….I do believe they have the shark in their rear view mirror, having jumped it about the time Britt jr and Mulan Kato started gettin’ busy. Now with an attack on the home base…I know these are all classic comic book tropes, but this tc_stw_01_000ikilmseries is only like, two years old. Isn’t it a bit early to be hitting these cliches already? I like some of the extra elements they’ve come up with and the expanded cast, and I’ll keep reading as long as it runs, but I don’t think I’ll really miss it when it’s gone.

I saw there was a new Crow series out and thought I’d give that one a try for old time’s sake.

Why do I keep doing that to myself?

Actually the idea of a Crow at a death camp in Nazi Germany isn’t a bad one, but it’s just not enough for me to care. This concept has gotten so watered down over the years, it almost seems like anyone who dies violently comes xK5L2back as a crow. I half expect batman’s parents to come back as the Crow!

Grifter is still a good series. I’ve heard this one is getting cancelled and that really does make me a little sad. I’m liking it and really enjoying the newer take on the character. This issue has him facing the Suicide Squad which is pretty much just flat out fan service aimed directly at me….or it would be if it were a Suicide Squad I recognized. Still, it’s actually a better handling of most of those characters than I’ve been seeing in thier own book.  I love how he describes them : “Everyone in t he squad is dangerous.They’re Black Ops criminals with nothing to lose”. I’ve never really heard them referd to in that manner before and I love it. This story also establishes a prior working relationship between Grifter and (the new 52 character who isn’t anything remotely like) Amanda Waller. This particular comment alone is enough reason to get this book.

waller

I miss fat, middle-age Amanda Waller. I totally believed that character WAY more than I do with this young, slim imposter.

Anyhow. Can I talk about She-Ra now?

Bp_C7_K

adora 1First and foremost, we don’t see She-Ra in this series, we don’t get the entire Secret of the Sword treatment either, but rather we get just before that. This character and series is apparently going to be intergrated into DC’s MOTU series eventually and I can’t wait.

It’s itneresting, they address something I had felt for years – Adora’s costume. In t his she is still aHorde Force Captian, just like in Secret of the Sword. However, in that cartoon, she was wearing the same Adora costume that she wore for the rest of the series (which is fine. I get limited animation and all of that). Essentially a jacket and a nice confy cotten shirt. Everyone else in teh Horde wore armor and bats and sigils and she just didn’t fit. This changes that… and her horde armor is stunning, not to mention the name : Despara. Just great stuff. She fits in better with the Horde here, rather than coming off like a princess wandering through adora 2the halls of evil treading on rose petals all the way….now, she looks evil. Moreover, when she takes that helmet off….she looks damaged. You can see the brainwashing in her eyes, the chopped hair just adds to it all. I love this.

When we open, it mentions that we are on Etheria – in the dark dimension of Despondos. That tells me that we aren’t throwing out all of the previous continuity from the failed MYP series in 2002, and that’s a good thing. While there were elements I really didn’t like about that series (most notably the designs for He-Man and the Sorceress) That series worked very hard to add some mythology to this world that had never been as well developed as it’s contemporaries in Transformers and GI Joe. It added a great deal to the MOTU story and I had feared most of that would have been thrown right out the window since that series was now out of favor.

skeletor1thegroup001That was in fact, enough of a boost for me to finally crack open that copy of the Origin of Skeletor I’d had laying a round for months.

Seriously. We’d gotten what I thought a spectacular origin for him in the MYP series and I was heartbroken that someone was going to come in and just re-write it. It turns out they didn’t exactly re-write it after all.

This story explores Skeletor’s past. Yes, we knew he was actually Randor’s brother Keldor. We had even expected that he was really his half-brother. And we see him treated as the Half-brother by his parents. Always out of favor, always passed over. Interestingly ( and heartbreakingly) enough, Randor is the one standing up for him. He is perhaps the only person ever to really love Keldor. Interesting but predictable. We probably could have guessed most of this.

What no one ever considered before, was that Keldor was the older brother.

Seriously. This changes everything.

Before, he was just some megalomaniac. He was just a James Bond villian who wanted to take over the world. Now….he’s the elder. He has a legitimate claim to the throne….perhaps even a more legitimate claim than Randor. His madness is what now makes him unfit to rule, but before losing his face and submitting to Hordak’s magic and apprenticeship?

This is a whole new dynamic. It took the MYP series to make this into a generational story. DC has taken it and turned it into a generational drama. I love this. I haven’t been this excited about MOTU in a very long time and it’s just great.

That wraps up this week. Christmas is coming. I hope you all survive it…I’m going to go look for He-Man shaped presents under the tree.


Akron Comicon

The Akron Comicon was a pleasant surprise. I really wasn’t sure what to expect as I drove the hour long trip to Akron. I checked the website earlier in the day and was disappointed to see P.Craig Russel had canceled, but otherwise everyone seemed to be scheduled to still show up. So I took the day off from Violent Blue,   donned my Shadow costume and off I went.

I had a hard time find the parking the FB page recommended, but was just as happy to park on a side street and walk the block to the show. My cloak flowed in the wind and that always puts me in a good mood.

It was a smaller space than I expected, but it was used with extreme efficiency. Almost immediately I was approached by a fellow who asked If I’d like to do an interview about my favorite comics and why I was at the con today. It pays to wear a costume! I don’t usually cosplay at horror cons because I want to look normal for photo ops, but comic cons are different.

I got in a surprisingly short line for Gerry Conway, the man who created the Punisher and wrote the death of Gwen Stacy in the Spider-Man comic series.  After taking their pictures with me, the guys in line behind me and I started to chat a bit. They showed me some beautiful reprints they were getting signed. Then on of them pulled out his copy of Spidy 120 – the issue before Gwen dies. I smiled and pulled out 121, and they nearly plotzed. IT was a good feeling. I related the story behind how I got that and the Punisher origin story (you can find it back here : https://argocitycomics.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/new-old-comics/ ) and they speculated on what these might be worth in the condition they are in. I was told I had at least a couple of hundred dollars in my backpack, but I wasn’t sure. These werent in great condition. They also pointed out that autographs don;t always increase value. That was something new to me, but in the end,  I really wanted Gerry to sign them.

When I got to the front of the line I flopped them down on the table and re told the story to Gerry who handled then with a remarkably gentle touch. He seemed to revere them almost as much as the fans behind me, advising me “You have some really expensive comics here.” He then mentioned with a smile, “these are worth more money than I was paid to write them!”

I popped over to a couple of other tables, and got to see Mike W. Barr who wrote my favorite series of Star Trek for DC. I’m not so much a TOS person or a TNG person as I am a DC comics-movie timeline person. That’s real Star Trek for me. He was also kind enough to sign my copy of Batman and the Outsiders #1 for me and chat a bit about Jim Aparo. Jim defines the look of Batman for me and I always remember Denny O’ Niel saying how brilliant he was.  Mike agreed with these statements and related a story to me about the one and only time he heard Jim complain; “It was a crossover with the Teen Titians and there were some supervillians on the cover too. He finished it and then looked at me and asked ‘They aren’t ALL going to be like this one are they?'”

It seemed like I was getting through all the lines really quickly….untill I hit Norm Breyfogels line. Now I understand he IS a bigger name, but honestly, Gerry Conways line wasn’t this long! Of course people weren’t asking him to sign entire runs of his work either. I know the sign says “No Limit” but seriously? Dropping a stack of fifty or a hundred comics to be autographed is just the lamest of fanboy behavior. Yes dude. I’m calling you out. You ARE the bad guy here and Norm was a saint to put up with you.

I attended a few of the panels, These could have been better, but were perfectly fine for a first year con. There was a fun moment during one panel on how comics are made. The presenter was using an slide show that he had already prepared for other seminars and it began with the question and definition of “What are Comics?”

“I think if youre here at this show, everyone probably already knows the answer to this one.” He topped for a moment. “Well, maybe not the guy dressed as the Shadow, but the rest of you I’m sure…” I had no comeback ready for this, but someone else did. From the audience I head a voice shout out “oh, the Shadow KNOWS!”

Lots of fun cosplayers, and a LOT of Doctor Who, including the cutest little Doctor costume I’ve ever seen on a baby. Not as many sales as I would have like to have seen though and very little in the way of film, bootlegs or rare. I would have expected at least something like the corman FF or the JLA pilot, or even Mockingbird lane. Oh well, perhaps next year.

And from what I heard, the con was successful enough to guarantee there WILL be a next year, and it totally deserves it. I’ll expect more next year, but for now, I had a blast at this years show!


The Mouse and the Jedi

Today’s Violent Blue comic strip is a little late today. I pulled the scheduled one because I wanted to weigh in a bit on the whole Disney / Lucas film controversy.

My reaction has been far less one of panic than surprise.  My surprise has far less to do with Disney than with the very fact that Lucas would EVER sell. That I find shocking.
Disney is a parent company to scores of companies, and most of them aren’t really affected by the squeaky clean image of the mouse. Moreover, I can’t see SW being dumbed down and made any more kid friendly than it already has been. I can’t see it being merchandised any more ruthlessly than it already has been. Lucas and Disney have similar marketing strategies, and honestly if someone was going to buy it, Disney is the only company on earth with deep enough pockets. to do it. Again, my real surprise is that Lucas would ever sell the only thing he’s really done successfully (Don’t talk to me about Indiana Jones. That’s a collaboration and I see WAY more Spielberg in it than Lucas).
I’m going to stick with I just don’t care. The prequels effectively killed the last bit of interest I had in the series. The only thing I would worry about is that this could make it harder to get any more Indiana Jones sequels, but then again, considering the quality of the last one, that may be a blessing in disguise. For the most part I simply think it’s a non issue. It just means that now the mouse gets the money from the royalties of the characters likensses….so Carrie Fisher will have to start sending Disney a check every time she looks in the mirror instead of Lucas.

Head on over to the webcomic to see what the characters from Violent Blue think about all of this!


Happy Halloween!

If you’re not sure exactly what is going on, check out this week’s Violent Blue.

The Spider-Man costume is real. What happend is we were given a box of custumes for the girls, and someone threw in an adult Spider-Man costume for me. No mask or gloves, but not a big deal.

Except I was broke.

So I was looking at this Spider-Man costume and trying to figure out what to do with it. I had a costume party coming up and wanted to wear it, but the mask and gloves were a problem. I considered doing the mask in facepaint, but my hair would still be showing. I don’t currently have a bald cap and it just looks band anyhow. I could do a Marvel Zombie, but to be comic accurate, I need a torn up mask. I don’t have an intact Spidey mask, much less a torn one.

Zombies still seemed like a good idea. I was thinking about the “Blackest Night” event DC had done in the Green Lantern comics a year ago. Those zombies weren’t just dead people, the black lantern rings kind of took them and turned them into gruesomely distorted versions of themselves. I came up with the idea of etching the spider web on my face and creating dark circles around my eyes in the shape of his goggles from the mask, then adding my black lantern ring to explain the lack of gloves.

I like it. The makeup was crazy long – over two hours. I could probably chalk that up to me trying out some new techniques. The cuts are cotten, colored with fake blood and the edges cleaned up with flesh tone greaspaint. A little black in there too to dirty it up and make it look infected. I could probably do it quicker now. I also added a little pink to the skin where the cuts join to add some trauma. Over all, I think it works well, and I like the idea of a costume that is in of itself a crossover. I like the idea though, that Taylor is wearing to to cause trouble. I used to wear Doctor Who costumes to Star Trek conventions for that EXACT SAME REASON!

Head on over to see this week’s Halloween hijinks at Violent Blue!


Turn off the Dark

This should be awful.

Seriously. This is a terrible idea and the people who gave  the go ahead should really consider another line of work.

So why can’t I stop watching it?

I got the DVD at Monster Bash. It’s not great, certainly no pro-shot, but it’s watchable….given that may alternative is sitting and listening to the OST with my eyes closed.

We all heard the stories about the nightmare production – actors in  the hospital, budget overruns, script problems. The subject matter itself really isn’t suitable for stage. Mind you, it’s not the WORST idea for a musical…you need only go back to our post months ago on Carrie : the Musical to see that. ( https://argocitycomics.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/carrie-the-musical/ ) And it feels the need to rehash that origin story AGAIN. This is the reason I skip the first fifty minuets of Raimi’s first movie every time I watch it. Still, they manage to do something interesting with it. The idea of the hero persona being inspired by the myth of Arachne is an interesting take. We actually get to the MJ romance quicker and I honestly LIKE MJ in this. It’s a better actress and somehow she just feels more sympathetic.

Interestingly, we never get resolution from Uncle Ben’s death.

There’s a heavy film influence here. The costume is obviously based on the movies -and it’s certainly better than that crap Andrew Garfield is wearing. They add the romance angle from Doc Ock and his wife and transfer it into the Norman Osborn character. It’s MJ he drops off the bridge again instead of Gwen -I’m more willing to forgive that with a smaller scale like this though.

You know what? I think “Rise above” may be even more inspiring than “With great power comes great responsibility”.

It’s not U2. If you remember that, you’ll be fine with the music. It’s not u2. It’s showtunes that aren’t bogged down with the baggage of showtune tradition. It’s better than other novelty musicals like Evil Dead or Spamalot.

In the end though, that’s exactly what it is. It’s a novelty. It’s really more circus than theatre. It’s cool to finally see Carnage in a live action appearance (unless you count the Sega Genesis commercials back in the 90’s) and the cutscenes on the big screens of the villains and the backstory really works. It’s fun. The music is catchy enough for me to listen too at work. This production should be terrible….

But it’s not. I want to hate on it, but I just can’t. I’m not sure it’s worth the price of a broadway musical, but it’s definitely worth seeing.  Hit up Youtube for clips and grab a bootleg if you can find one. (While you at it, check out this week’s Violent Blue!)

 


Hawkeye

Every now and then I’ll check in on series that I kind of like but am not reading. Avengers related titles are on the top of that list. When it’s good, it’s really good, but most of the time, I just don’t care.

I noticed the Hawkeye redesign. I’m really liking the look, which of course is a direct result of the look from the Avengers movie, which in turn is directly related to the Ultimate’s series ten years ago.  Yeah whatever.

I’m not a hater though. It’s a good look and fits with the modern design ethic. That’s not saying I don’t like the old costume. The purple and blue always worked for me. Somehow the pointed mask sold the tough guy feel of the character to me, and really, characters like Green Arrow and Shaft and Hawkeye NEED great costumes. It distracts us from  the fact that they’re just these guys with bow and arrows.

Hawkeye’s usually gotten more development than that, but I really like the direction they are taking, where anything he touches could be a weapon, and making him more a marksman like Bullseye or Deadshot. It works well for the character and the new costume fits that idea better. It’s got me interested enough to pick up the first couple of issues of his ongoing comic series.

Speaking of ongoing comic series, there’s new Violent Blue tomorrow. Hope to see you there!


Catching up on comics (part three)

A while back I did a Violent Blue strip where i mentioned that The Lone Ranger from Dynamite comics  was one of the best books being published. That’s still true, even though I’ve missed a bunch of issues. They restarted the numbering after the hiatus and it’s thrown me off, but “Hard Country” was a perfect example of everything I love about this book. The Ranger is more established in these stories now, and his reputation precedes him. That makes him a little more familiar to the reader as well. We’re past the learning curve arcs. “Hard Country” is a set of mostly self contained stories with a two parter on the back end. It’s a great place to jump on for folks who haven’t been reading the book and if you haven’t I really recommend that you do.

This book is the first time I’ve seen someone get the Lone Ranger right….the first time I’ve seen it since the TV series in the 50’s. That’s a lot of water under the bridge huh? The problem over the years has been that every writer wants to deconstruct him, and reimagined his relationship with Tonto in a way that’s more politically correct – even adversarial. No one wants to see that. The Lone Ranger is like Superman. We want a pure, noble hero. dynamite gives us that, while at the same time expanding the mythos. They have given us more to look at, a better understanding of where the silver bullets come from, how The ranger relates to his lost brother’s wife, how he lives and a bit more depth to the characterization. They do this all without trying to drag him down. I love these books.

The “Death of Zorro” series has been surprisingly great as well. It didn’t necessarily have to be. Crossing over The Lone Ranger and Zorro was going to sell books one way or another, but the ideas they have presented here work well. It’s particularly interesting to see the Ranger’s father in this series and how he was helped by Zorro. I’m still missing the last two issues of that series, but I’m comfortable singing it’s praises as it is.

Suicide Squad is another story altogether. I was excited about this book coming back as a regular series. Hopeful even. There’s enough of a fan base I think, to keep it afloat if DC really puts some effort into it. And that’s where we find our problem.

Remember last week when I was complaining about Image’s Bloodstrike? How they stripped it of everything that made it fun? Much the same is happening here. One of the things that has always made Suicide Squad interesting is the bureaucracy. It’s always been a part of the book, even during that brief run by Keith Giffen that everyone seems to have disowned. The bureaucracy was INTERESTING. It was years before we’d see it become the norm in the 90’s Image books. It was new and different. Interesting to see Waller as the liaison dealing with the psychiatrists, the prison Warden,  and guards and the Chaplin. Interesting to see the intrigue as she deals with Washington politicians and intelligence. Fascinating to explore the relationships between the normal people and the super powered convicts. All of this has been stripped. It’s pretty much Waller as the only symbol of authority. The only “good guy” in the room.

That’s another problem. The Suicide Squad as it existed in ’88 consisted of both heroes and villains. The heroes were perhaps a bit shady, Bronze Tiger being a reformed villain and Vixen being a bit of an outcast.  But it provided a better balance. The villains, were by and large, sociopathic. Really bad folks. They were familiar names; Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Poisen Ivy, Count Vertigo, Doctor Light. Characters you’d seen beaten in other titles but never given any real character development. Before, they were merely foils. In John Ostrander’s hands, they became truly scary, and you realized they didn’t have a sense of right or wrong. THAT’s what made them evil. Not robbing banks or kidnapping the mayor’s daughter. These familiar faces would kill anyone and do anything as long as it suited their plans.

All of that is gone. It’s just a bunch of cardboard cutouts now. These characters are just the colorful foils they always were in the superhero books and Suicide Squad is far less interesting because of it.  particularly when it comes to Waller and Deadshot.

Deadshot is now the leader of the suicide squad and he’s portrayed as a bit of a go getter. The soldier type. His death wish is gone, his attitude.  Someone at DC seems to have decided that Deadshot is popular and he should be the main character in the book, but they failed to understand WHY he was popular. Ostrander created great depth with Deadshot, exploring his relationships, his family and his pathology. He wasn’t a hero. He didn’t want to be. Gail Simone picked up on this when she was writing Secret Six and ran with it. There’s a lot to Floyd Lawton, and still more that could be explored, but this guy in the new 52 universe isn’t him. He’s just your standard not-quite-a-hero type and far less interesting.

Waller’s transformation is tragic. She’s a young, beautiful up-and-coming government agent.

What?????

Everything about her that was unique, everything that was special has been thrown out. A pretty, young secret agent with an attitude and a mouth? What’s special about that? What is there to this character that I haven’t seen a thousand times in any other comic book or TV show? Amanda Waller was fascinating in the past because she was a middle aged tough as nails strong black woman.She had wisdom and determination. There was a good deal of amorality to her, though not quite enough to push her towards sociopathology. She knew the game that politics was and played it as well as anyone. She pulled her self up from the mud by her own bootstraps and BUILT this life for herself….and she did that after her kids were grown. This young chippy that’s running around with the huge rack and thin waist calling herself Amanda Waller isn’t half the person pre-52 Waller was. Nor will she grow into the role. She doesn’t have the requisite adversity to overcome. Someone explain to me what it was that NEEDED to be changed or updated about this character. Come on. I dare you.

It’s been 12 issues now. You had your chance DC. I’m dropping this book…..something I’ve NEVER done with a series called Suicide Squad.

Grifter wasn’t nearly as big a disappointment. Really, he’s one of the characters largely untouched by the new 52, other than being integrated into the DCU and that’s a plus.

Grifter has changed a bit, gradually over the years. Not a huge amount, if you were to pick up an early WildCATS book and a current Grifter, you’d notice some differences, but not enough to be unrecognizable. Slow as they were, they’ve been almost unnoticeable. The biggest one I’ve seen is his recently developed Telekinesis. That’s not as big a deal to me as I may have expected. When the TK and other Psi abilities started to really show up with Cable, it didn’t change the character that much. He was still all about the guns and strategy. If DC takes this approach with Grifter, it’ll be just fine.

Grifter isn’t a great book. It doesn’t aspire to be. It’s a solid, average series, and it always has been. That may be it’s strentgth. It’s never been Sandman, but then again, it’s also never been Great Lakes Avengers either. I can be confident that if I pick this up I’ll be entertained. I always empty Grifters out of bargain bins at comic shops and cons, and I pick them up off t he racks here and there. When I think about it. Every few months. No biggie. Please new 52 DCU, don’t screw this one up.

Finally, I revisited Dynamite’s The Shadow.  I pretty much nailed it when I said Ennis seemed to have a heavy Chaykin influence. He admits as much here: http://www.bleedingcool.com/2012/02/14/the-shadow-interview-garth-ennis-knows-what-evil-lurks-in-the-hearts-of-men/  Which is fine. I have that series. I even like it, but it’s far from my favorite. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by all the other versions. I far prefer the O’Neil one from the 70’s, even the Klauta work for Dark Horse. Honestly I even prefer the poorly done movie to Chaykins version (Check out Klauta’s comic adaptions of that by the way, it’s actually superior to the film and manages to fix a lot of the movies issues without compromising the story – but I digress). Back when I was 12, and Chaykin was the only game in town I enjoyed it more.

Still, I’m going to stick with this for a while. Kevin Smith didn’t really hit his stride on The Green Hornet until issue seven or eight, and after he left in issue twelve, the series improved further still. I want to see the next story arc on the Shadow, hopefully we’ll be back in New York battling the mob. Ennis talks about the “potential” of the character. I believe in that as well. Lets see where it takes us.