TOP 15 Favorite Comic Book / Superhero Movies!! Updated 2012 list!!


So where does Joss Whedon’s AVENGERS rank on the list of best comic-based movies?

Pretty high actually.

Well here’s my biased list of my 15 favorite Comic based movies. The ones I find… re-watchable.(Only caveat being I tried to list only one film per series, the best film of the series, to leave room for others).And it’s pretty much in order of re-watchability. Which film can I view at anytime because it’s that… good and timeless?

Well it starts with SUPERMAN THE MOVIE, still not just one of the best comic book films, but one of the best… films. My top 5 are movies I can leave on repeat in my house and grow not sick of.

SUPERMAN THE MOVIE
AVENGERS
SPIDERMAN II
BLADE II
300

X2
CAPTAIN AMERICA
THOR
IRON MAN II
WATCHMEN

WANTED
CROW
HANCOCK (horrible title, horrible marketing, horrible poster, saved by a fantastic 2nd half)
DOLPH LUNDGREN PUNISHER (The best of the Punisher Films. Fun, ninja-decimating flick. :))
MATRIX (Has not dated well, but still strong enough to make the list)

And a few honorable mentions, BATMAN (1989), DARK KNIGHT, HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, DARK MAN, UNBREAKABLE. Feel free to suggest any you think I may have missed (me? never! I got all the good ones! :)) in the comments section.

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2012 MOVIE Review : THE Verdict is in! AVENGERS… Avenged!!! :)

You are reading this either because you saw the film and want to compare your experience with others, or haven’t seen the film, and want to get a general idea of what people thought of it. I’ll answer both demographics, without going into details about the film.

I think most of you coming to this blog know, my grumpy persona aside I’m not a contrarian. I’m not one of these IMDB idiots who rate all films either 1 or 5 (on a 5 star system, I use a 4 star system), the concept of grading and gradations seemingly lost on them.

That said neither am I a bandwagon jumper who is going to praise a film when it’s trendy to do so, and eviscerate it when it is trendy to do so.(SUPERMAN RETURNS and TITANIC being two movies with more than their share of flip-floppers).

I often listen to pod-casts, and it is amazing how often you can hear one person excited by a film, but then his friends don’t like the film, so you can hear the person backtrack from his/her position, so they can be in line with the likes of their ‘friends’.

An anthropologist might define it as a clannish race survival technique (“Bubba let’s go lynch that thar 12 year old boy, for looking at that thar white woman.” “Why Bubba Senior, that thar’s a fine idea. Hyuck. Hyuck. Hyuck.”), I’ve always just defined it as cowardice.

I’m saying my good opinion or my bad is not formed by the whims of the mob.

Never has been. Never will be.

So if I give you a review you can be sure it is my review, my considered opinion… and I stand behind it.

So my considered opinion on the AVENGERS movie?

Joss Whedon, whose other film this year CABIN IN THE WOODS I wasn’t a fan of (more due to the first time Director on that film, than to Whedon’s script), here in his role as Director and Writer, knocks this film out of the park.

THE AVENGERS is… I’m trying to avoid hyperbole here, leaving that to everyone else, but it has to be said… it is a FANTASTIC film.

It’s as smart as CABIN IN THE WOODS, but with Whedon behind the camera you also get characters and moments you really care about. You get the pathos to go with the pomp and circumstance.

I mean how do you pull this off? The culmination of all these films, all this planning, all these actors, how do you pull it together and make it work and make it live up to expectations? It is really an amazingly ambitious film, a daunting prospect, and Joss Whedon… does it.

It’s really rare for me to laugh out loud in a film, I laughed out loud numerous times in this film, just because it is so knowing, and so sharp, and so biting, and so friggin fun!!!

I’m so glad I went into this film without watching a bunch of trailers or features, or ruining any surprises because I just had a ball. And along with the fun, Whedon gave space and weight to the tragedy, something that is glossed over sometimes in epic films. The weight and cost of this battle. Whedon never loses sight of the street level view, the common men and women caught in the midst of a war of Gods and Monsters.

The humanity he imbues the attack scene with is reminiscent of Mimi Leder’s phenomenal direction in the criminally underrated Clooney action film PEACEMAKER. Where every loss and every life… was felt.


The Peacemaker (Widescreen Edition)

And going along with that, for a big, loud, blow stuff up action flick on par with Bay’s TRANSFORMERS:DARK OF THE MOON (which the battle scenes bear a resemblance to) everyone gets a chance to actually act and emote in this film. Whedon’s TV/Buffy dialog/experience serving the film well.

Every principal actor really gets a chance to shine, Scarlett Johanson, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo (Who I didn’t think could fill Ed Norton’s shoes, is phenomenal. Both as Banner and the Jade Giant he has some of the great scenes/lines in the film), Downey, they all bring it. And big kudos to Tom Hiddleston who plays Loki as more than one dimensional, but with charm and depth to match his machinations.

Anything more would be me… gushing. Suffice to say, if my math is correct this is the 6th Marvel Studios film, the culmination of half a dozen years, and their shared Universe experiment, and they pull it off. Creating a cinematic climax to this multi-year and multi-film storyline that is actually bigger and better than the films leading up to it.

I’m seldom the guy to tip my hat to MARVEL, but you have to give them their due. STAR WARS couldn’t do it (RETURN not quite living up to the greatness of EMPIRE), STAR TREK every other film is bad and they are all one off stories, BOND also is one off stories, INDIANA JONES no, MATRIX… no, LORD OF THE RINGS … no, but Marvel Studios managed to end their ambitious story… even stronger than they began it (Though it is worth noting that the heart of this whole AVENGERS cinematic concept, starts with one writer, Mark Millar of WANTED and KICK-ASS fame. His vision is what Marvel Studios followed from page to screen. And in the dozen years since his ULTIMATES comics, his involvement is perhaps not credited as much as it should be).

The AVENGERS storyline that began with the first IRON MAN, went out on a high-note with this film. Arguably only Harry Potter could claim to have as effectively told a story over multiple films. Plus they give us a great teaser at the end, can you say…. awww but that would be telling! ๐Ÿ™‚

Go see the film. It’s earned its praise. Highest Recommendation A+.

And read more about the Avengers, here [Definite spoilers :)]:

The Ultimates: Ultimate Collection

The Ultimates 2: Ultimate Collection

Ultimate Comics Avengers by Mark Millar Omnibus

Avengers: Kree/Skrull War

And these books will get you up to speed with the teaser at the end of the film:

Essential Warlock – Volume 1

Essential Captain Marvel, Vol. 1 (Marvel Essentials) (v. 1)

Essential Captain Marvel, Vol. 2 (Marvel Essentials)

Infinity Gauntlet

Joss Whedon, AVENGERS and Imax 3D vs 2D Comparison!!! Should you pay IMAX 3D prices?


“The 3D enhances a few scenes here and there but is not at all eye-popping, largely because this was a post-production conversion rather than offering the more authentic spatial depth of a movie shot with 3D cameras. Only with films shot in 3D do you get the mesmerising immersion of something like Avatar.”
—coventrytelegraph.net (they saw the movie both in 2D and IMAX 3D)

The above reinforces my negative view on films not shot in IMAX 3D that are later post converted. Pure and simple, it is a cash grab by the studios and does little to improve the way the filmmaker intended you to experience the film, and in some cases because of the darkness factor may actually weaken the viewing experience (I had this issue seeing THOR in 3D, it didn’t look 3D, and the image was dark. It was better taking off the stupid glasses, then enduring the so-called 3D).

So my advice, save your money and see AVENGERS in 2D, as it was meant to be seen. ๐Ÿ™‚

And who knows, if enough of you begin doing that, you may send a message to the suits to 1/ stop the post conversion money grab and 2/stop charging more for IMAX 3D.

Now wouldn’t that be grand! ๐Ÿ™‚

Come back tomorrow for my AVENGERS review!

And read more about the Avengers, here [Definite spoilers :)]:

The Ultimates: Ultimate Collection

The Ultimates 2: Ultimate Collection

Ultimate Comics Avengers by Mark Millar Omnibus

Avengers: Kree/Skrull War

And these books will get you up to speed with the teaser at the end of the film:

Essential Warlock – Volume 1

Essential Captain Marvel, Vol. 1 (Marvel Essentials) (v. 1)

Essential Captain Marvel, Vol. 2 (Marvel Essentials)

Infinity Gauntlet

GRAPHIC NOVEL Review: OLD MAN LOGAN HC

OLD MAN LOGAN- One of the reasons I’m just now getting around to reading this graphic novel has to do with Marvel Comic’s piss poor pricing. The individual issues of Marvel Comics I gave up reading/caring about years ago when most of them…

A/ reached $3.99 in price for less than a couple dozen pages of story and

B/filled the issues with ads that broke up the story (rather than the Independent comics way of placing ads, if any, at the back of the magazine) and

C/ did away with the letters pages/backmatter.

So generally speaking I take a wait and see approach to anything coming from this company. If the buzz/hype is positive I’ll check the book out in trade, providing even in trade format I’m not paying more than $3 per issue. The OLD MAN LOGAN hardcover at $35 retail, clocks in at nearly $4.50 per issue. I call shenanigans on that.

So I basically refused to buy the book until I could get it at a price point I was willing to pay, or rent it from the library. In this case the former scenario popped up, allowing me to purchase OLD MAN LOGAN for $14. At that price, the book is worth every penny.

Now getting beyond the politics of pricing, what did I think of the book itself? It’s AWESOME!!! I am not a Mark Millar fan, being not a fan of his previous ENEMY OF THE STATE Wolverine storyline, I find he can be a very hit and miss writer. Often sensationalism for sensationalism’s sake. but when he dials it back a bit, and stops trying to be the shock jock, and plays in a more mainstream pool, he can tell good stories.

And OLD MAN LOGAN is case in point. It is by no means anything deep, and at times goes too ludicrous, but overall he tells a big grandiose, absurd, post apocalyptic story, Superhero tale as a western of all things, and it just works. Particularly to someone like me who came up on the same stories that informs Millar’s work, his crazy quilt dystopian future hits all the right buttons to garner much ‘gosh’ and ‘oh gee’ enthusiasm. The art by Steve McNiven is rough, stocky, almost off-putting, but it serves the story.

It’s a loud boisterous unsubtle tale, that while nothing new under the sun, works because it gives us familiar characters in unfamiliar situations. Yet another variation of Star Trek’s MIRROR MIRROR or X-Men’s DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, and those variations, more often then not are enjoyable.

And OLD MAN LOGAN, flaws acknowledged is enjoyable.

And to speak on its flaws a bit, the biggest flaw with this book, is the big flaw most writers make, be it Millar or Jason Aaron, when writing Wolverine. They think character and cool translates into ever more egregious ways of showing Wolverine mutilated. All that type of ‘storytelling’ shows me is, the character of Wolverine is a piss poor soldier, that relies too much on the crutch of a healing factor.

What is cooler… a buffoon who gets shot in the face every other page, or a fast fluid killer who you can’t touch, and you don’t even know he has a healing factor, cause that’s how rarely he needs it? I’d vote for the latter. The latter seems the more formidable protagonist. A protagonist that… when on the rare occasions he does get tagged and comes back, it is a moment with real weight.

All these writers in trying to outdo each other in more, more, more, gives the character of Logan/Wolverine nowhere to go. And unfortunately Millar is as guilty of that as every writer since Claremont in trying to make the character of Wolverine into some unkillable badass, who can kill every other superhero. It’s a bit lazy, and bs.

Let’s put it in the perspective of the fictional conceit that has been setup, he’s a dude with claws, and a temper. An interesting character, a scrapper to be sure, but trying to define him as more than that, in a world of God’s and Giants doesn’t ring true (he’s a Spiderman or Daredevil level hero, not in the league of a Thor or Hulk or IronMan). When Claremont was writing him in his Miller and Paul Smith days, as a secret agent/ronin, is the Wolverine character at his best, and most relateable.

Millar’s take on the guy as someone who is by himself going to take out a room full of heroes or villains is bs. But that said, you go into the story accepting the conceit, go with the outlandish premise, just turn your higher brain functions off, and it’s an enjoyable enough romp as a standalone story.

All in all this tale of an older Wolverine in a world where the villains have won and he has hung up his claws. Is imaginative, if absurd entertainment. Grade: B+.

OLD MAN LOGAN HC— Price your copy Here!

The return of UNDER THE RADAR Vol2 Issue 2! Part 1 of 2!

“Must we start every sup, with who we love and who we don’t?” —Peter O’Toole in the LION IN WINTER


Okay it’s that time again. My recommendation for comic books/graphic novels to preorder now for January 2011 arrival.

If while going though the below list you see any titles that you want to purchase current or backissues of go

here.

But first, what is UNDER THE RADAR?

UNDER THE RADAR was an experiment I started a while ago that I was quite proud of. Basically a very cool PDF I launched out to comic book retailers and fans to highlight titles you would otherwise miss, or get lost in the deluge from bigger publishers flooding the market.

It was fun, and very intensive, and very time consuming, so when time became an issue it fell by the wayside.

But I notice my old UNDER THE RADAR posts get a lot of hits, and even though a lot of people are doing preview podcasts (audio/radio-like programs dedicated to recommending items to preorder), those can be quite time consuming, when what most people are looking for is a quickly viewed list of recommended items they might otherwise miss.

So with that in mind, UNDER THE RADAR is back, but in a FAR simpler format. No PDF, no long diatribes. just a monthly listing of new titles to preorder or be on the lookout for.

Okay without further ado, this is a list of titles you can preorder this month through your local retailer for January 2011 arrival.


Marvel

No letters pages, no back matter, ads breaking up the story.

All these odd decisions from Marvel give no incentive to buy marvel issues monthly. Seemingly, they don’t care enough to give you a something beyond what you would get in the trade paperback, a real sense of a Stan Lee dialog, or sense of a monthly behind the scenes look at the creative process, so generally I say eff em. I’m talking about the publishing policies and policy makers of Marvel, not generally the creators, (as marvel has some great creators, but perhaps in service of not the greatest decision makers) but rather the lackluster way the creations are fed to you.

So even though Marvel floods the market with well over a hundred titles a month, their policies make it very easy to dismiss most of them from purchase consideration. The exceptions for this month?

$4.99 INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #500

Written by MATT FRACTION Art & 50/50 Covers by SALVADOR LARROCA Variant Covers by MARKO DJURDJEVIC, JOE QUESADA & JOHN ROMITA JR. GIANT-SIZED ANNIVERSARY ISSUE! Three generations of Starks face their ultimate foe, seventy-some years in the future while, in the present, Spider-Man joins Iron Man as he tries to fill in the blanks of his missing memory. What if amnesia was a weapon? What if the smartest man in the land had ten nightmares that all came true? Who is the son of Tony Stark? What’s inside of the rings? The future starts now, for the Marvel Universe’s favorite futurist. The Eisner-award-winning series makes a four-hundred-something-issue leap and raises a glass of non-alcoholic champale in salute to Ol’ Shell-head! By Matt Fraction (THOR, UNCANNY X-MEN, CASANOVA) and Salvador Larroca (UNCANNY X-MEN, FANTASTIC FOUR), with special guests Howard X, Y and Z! 104 PGS./Rated A …$4.99

100 pgs for $5. Not great, but I do like what Matt Fraction is doing with this book. Hopefully it isn’t full of reprints to pad out the page count, but figure the odds of that. A lukewarm recommendation.

* Marvel had a couple interesting trades, but their pricing is outrageous. For 4 and 5 issues of content they are trying to charge $20 to $30 for a collected edition, trade, or hc. Which basically boils down to them trying to charge you between $4 and $6 per issue collected. To that I say, hell no. A trade should, with rare eceptions, be no more than $2 per issue collected. So if you are only collecting 4 issues you’re only going to get $8 from me. And if it costs more than that you get nothing from me.

So Marvel trades get nothing from me this month.

*I’m interested in Matt Fraction’s THOR but not interested enough to pay $4 an issue, they can keep it.

$1.95 (save $1.04) THUNDERBOLTS #152
Written by JEFF PARKER Penciled by KEV WALKER Cover by GREG LAND The T-Bolts leap into HULK’s “Scorched Earth”! At the request of Steve Rogers, Luke Cage must take his hardened team to deal with a doomsday scenario unleashed in the pages of HULK! And now that the squad is a man short, Cage finally uses his power to recruit another prisoner to duty–and his pick will shock you! Will the Thunderbolts accept this new member as a part of their force? Or will this heavy duty wild card destroy the balance of power? Find out in the series that Newsarama.com’s Best Shots calls “The Avengers title that not enough people are raving about…it’s one of the best of the bunch.” 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99 (preview artwork is available)

The reason I’m picking up this title is it has potential, it has Luke Cage:Power Man (They need to go back to calling him that), Jeff Parker is a good writer, storyline sounds like a good jumping on point, and the price is $2.99. So to keep me picking it up monthly they’ll need to add letterpages or backmatter, or I’ll be hopping off of it relatively soon.

$2.99 BLACK PANTHER MAN WITHOUT FEAR #514

Written by DAVID LISS Penciled by FRANCESCO FRANCAVILLA Cover by SIMONE BIANCHI Luke Cage guest stars as T’Challa’s new adventure in NYC continues! The former King of Wakanda has sworn to protect the mean streets of Hell’s Kitchen, and while battling the mob is one thing, how does he stop a killer targeting innocent people? It’s a deadly game of cat-and-mouse, as T’Challa hunts ruthless new crime lord Vlad the Impaler, while Vlad concocts a desperate and bloody scheme to entrap the mysterious new vigilante that’s ruining his plans. T’Challa learns what it really means to be a man without fear, courtesy of award-winning thriller novelist David Liss and the pulp-tastic art of Francesco Francavilla! 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99

I think without argument Christopher Priest’s take on the Black Panther was the essential take, and Marvel’s use of this character since, has been in the shadow of that great run. And good writers not withstanding, Hudlin and Mayberry, I think it suffers from idiotic editorial decisions. Petty decisions intent, for whatever reason, on dismantling a great character. A female Black Panther? Really? That was someone’s stab at a good idea? Just indicative of the sabotaging type editorial decisions that have plagued this character.

The post-Priest series suffering from gimmics rather than gusto.

However with T’Challa back in the suit, if only in the DAREDEVIL title, I’m hoping this will be a good jumping on point. I’d love to see an entertaining, respectful run with this character. I’m unfamiliar with David Liss, but he has sense enough to toss Luke Cage:Power Man in here, and that means I’m willing to give him the benefit of a doubt, and willing to support, until they prove otherwise.

From Marvels ICON Line

$3.99 CASANOVA GULA #1 (OF 4)

Written by MATT FRACTION Art & Cover by FABIO MOON CASANOVA is back. Or is he? Actually Casanova is gone. Gone from space, gone from time. The burning question WHEN IS CASANOVA QUINN hangs over the entire world as E.M.P.I.R.E. and W.A.S.T.E. alike race toward the horrible, inevitable, answer…The second staggering volume of CASANOVA starts here by the Eisner-laden team of Matt Fraction (THOR, UNCANNY X-MEN, THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN) and Fabio Moon (DAYTRIPPER, SUGARSHOCK) taking over art duties. Never before collected! Never before reprinted! Never before understood! In gorgeous full 4-D psychocolor! Worth a million in prizes! Change your shorts, change your life, change into a nine-year-old Hindu boy! Guaranteed!* *not actually guaranteed 40 PGS./Mature Content …$3.99


No ads breaking up the story, and loads of backmatter, and additional pages. So it’s me getting more bang for my buck, plus it’s Matt Fraction’s CASANOVA.

$14.99 CASANOVA TP LUXURIA VOL 1

Written by MATT FRACTION Penciled by FABIO MOON & GABRIEL BA Cover by GABRIEL BA Meet Casanova Quinn: prodigal son of a law-and-order family hell-bent on keeping the world safe and sound, now blackmailed into betraying his father and the international law enforcement organization he controls. LUXURIA collects the first volume of CASANOVA as its titular star transforms from devil-may-care thrill-seeker into the most dangerous man in the world. What happens when the ultimate player gets played? Find out in this genre-bending sci-spy epic. Gorgeously re-colored and re-lettered by hand, this staggering psychedelic spy-fi epic is collected for the first time as it was meant to be made. By the Eisner award-winning team of Matt Fraction (INVINCIBLE IRON MAN, THOR, UNCANNY X-MEN), Gabriel Ba (UMBRELLA ACADEMY, BPRD: 1947), and Fabio Moon (DAYTRIPPER, SUGARSHOCK). With all-new, all-different, never-before-seen bonus material! Collecting CASANOVA: LUXURIA #1-4112 PGS./Mature …$24.99 152 PGS./Mature …$14.99

And speaking of CASANOVA we also have the CASANOVA trade. At $15 and being a collection of bigger ICON issues, the price point is a doable exception.

$3.50 INCOGNITO BAD INFLUENCES #4

BY ED BRUBAKER AND SEAN PHILIPS WITH COLORS BY VAL STAPLES Zack Overkill has plunged into the super-criminal underworld on a deadly mission that’s made him question everything. Now he’s come face-to-face with his target, and things just got a hell of a lot worse. And so with every issue, our Professor of Pulp Culture, Jess Nevines is back with another great essay on forgotten pulp history, available only in the single issues of INCOGNITO. INCOGNITO, BAD INFLUENCES #4 -32 PGS/Mature Content/Np Ads … $3.50

It’s always good to see the CRIMINAL team of Brubaker and Philips releasing another issue.

Uhh, yeah and that’s all for Marvel.


DC

All the negatives I said for Marvel, goes for DC as well. Which makes it easy to disregard most of the 100 or so books they put out every month. It’s stupid, confusing, greedy, and ultimately just off-putting to have 20 different Bat Titles. You should have just 2. BATMAN, and one 100page anthology called BATMAN FAMILY. Boom, job done. And until they do this it makes it very easy for me to buy none of their titles. Thanks. :).

The exceptions?

$2.99 POWER GIRL #20

Written by JUDD WINICK Art and cover by SAMI BASRI Racing headlong into the adventure and turmoil of GENERATION LOST, Power Girl is hot on the trail of Max Lord – seeking answers and looking for payback. But a trip to Project Cadmus leaves her with a bit more than she can handle, and monstrously outnumbered. On sale JANUARY 19 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

The one big difference between Marvel and DC is in terms of art. For the most part Marvel has frigging kick ass artists and cover design, and no doubt this is due to two of the companies driving forces, Quesada and Bendis, being great artists in their own right. DC to be kind, with a few exceptions (such as the great and innovative art of Perez or Quietly), underwhelms. DC’s covers and interiors are typically a bland, uninteresting house style; and in a medium that lives and dies on art, that’s not a good thing.

And when they do get a decent artist, like Simone Bianchi, seemingly the suits are too inane or cheap to keep them, and Marvel ends up offering the artist a better deal.

Which brings us to Sam Basri.

I touched on this in the last UNDER THE RADAR, Sam Basri is one of the few absolutely amazing artists that DC has working for them. His sense of cover design on the POWER GIRL series has been blowing me away. They really are works of art by themselves, and is one of the main reasons I’m picking up this series in individual issues rather than waiting for the trade. He really is one of DCs best artists, and the company really needs to realize this and pay him accordingly, or they’ll find him working for their competition in no time. ๐Ÿ™‚ .

$2.99 SPIRIT #10

Written by DAVID HINE Art by MORITAT Cover by LADRONN Roscoe Kalashnikov was sure he could get away with murder – and in a town as corrupt as Central City, maybe he could. But if that’s so, why do his victim’s words still haunt him? She said something about “the spirit of justice” and now, around every corner, Roscoe is seeing a flash of trench coat and the briefest glimpse of a masked man… On sale JANUARY 19 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

David Hine on a SPIRIT comic? I’m intrigued. David Hine is a really good writer.

$2.99 THUNDER AGENTS #3

Written by NICK SPENCER Art by CAFU & BIT and HOWARD CHAYKIN Cover by CHRIS SPROUSE The new hit series by Nick Spencer (ACTION COMICS, Morning Glories) and CAFU continues! Think the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents are a messed-up team? Wait until you learn the secrets of the evil organization known as Spider! This issue promises twists, turns and a sequence illustrated by the legendary Howard Chaykin! On sale JANUARY 12 * 32 pg, FC $2.99 US

I’m hearing good things about this Nick Spenser, so this issue may be worth a look.

$2.99 LOONEY TUNES #194

Written by BILL MATHENY Art by DAVID ALVAREZ Cover by SCOTT GROSS Beaky Buzzard is hungry. He thinks he’s found a nice meal in Daffy Duck, but the wacky bird has another suggestion: Bugs Bunny. So just who will be feeding the hungry buzzard family? A hint: It won’t be the ever-cool Bugs! Poor Beaky doesn’t stand a chance… On sale JANUARY 5 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

$2.99 TINY TITANS #36

Written by ART BALTAZAR & FRANCO Art and cover by ART BALTAZAR Titans to the center of the Earth! Terra uses her powers to take the “hot” Titans on the journey of a lifetime. And if Terra is involved, you know Beast Boy isn’t far behind! Don’t forget the sunscreen and the bottled water, and watch out for the Sea Trap of Doom! On sale JANUARY 19 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

I’ve started looking for books that I can give to younger readers. The above seem to fit the bill.

$2.99 ACTION COMICS #897

Written by PAUL CORNELL Art by PETE WOODS Cover by DAVID FINCH & BATT The last place Lex Luthor expected his quest for the Black Lantern energy to take him was Arkham Asylum – specifically to the cell of The Joker! What clues about Lex’s quest could The Joker have to offer, and why on Earth would Lex trust him? Get ready for a one-of-a-kind confrontation between comics’ two greatest villains, as brought to you by the twisted minds of Paul Cornell and Pete Woods! On sale JANUARY 26 * 32 pg, FC $2.99 US

$2.99 STEEL #1

Written by STEVE LYONS Art by SEAN CHEN Cover by ALEX GARNER John Henry Irons is a normal human being who managed to overcome all odds and become a hero who Superman considers a peer and colleague. What kind of determination drives a man to reach such heights? Find out here as a battered and bruised Steel defiantly stands as the only thing between Metallo and the destruction of Metropolis! Doctor Who novelist Steve Lyons and artist Sean Chen (ACTION COMICS, SALVATION RUN) deliver a story that shows why Steel is a true DC Universe icon! ONE-SHOT * On sale JANUARY 5 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Great solicitation. Plus I really like the character of Steel.

*I’ve heard good things about Lemire’s SUPERBOY, but I’ve seen the art, and it just doesn’t work for me. May try it later in trade.

$2.99 SUPERGIRL #60

Written by NICK SPENCER Art by BERNARD CHANG Cover by AMY REEDER & RICHARD FRIEND SUPERGIRL welcomes aboard writer Nick Spencer (JIMMY OLSEN, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS, Morning Glories) and artist Bernard Chang (WONDER WOMAN, SUPERMAN) for a Girl of Steel story unlike any other! Someone is trying to kill the young heroes of the DC Universe! Who is this villain, and how can Supergirl stop him? Maybe her friends can help – namely, Batgirl, Blue Beetle, Miss Martian, Static and…Robin?! Buckle up, folks, because this one puts the pedal to the metal on page one and doesn’t let up for a second! On sale JANUARY 19 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Two things are getting me to give this a try, Nick Spenser and Static.

$2.99 HOUSE OF MYSTERY #33

Written by MATTHEW STURGES Art by WERTHER DELL’EDERA and DAVID LLOYD Cover by ESAO ANDREWS Since the Pair of the Conception first chased Fig Keele into the House of Mystery, Fig has never known who they were or what they wanted from her. Now, Fig solves a mystery that’s been lingering since the very beginning. Featuring a tale illustrated by David Lloyd (V FOR VENDETTA)! On sale JANUARY 5 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US MATURE READERS

Probably not the best place to jump in, but I’m intrigued, and have been meaning to pick this up.

Wow, I’m actually quite surprised how many DC comics I recommend this month. I guess their price drop has helped their titles to become more attractive, or at least most justifiable of the expense. Well that’s all for this installment. Catch me tomorrow for part 2 of this, and the remaining titles I recommend. Don’t miss it, as that’s where the good stuff is.

Classic Comics from 1995: Mark Millar’s SWAMP THING issues 153-161

Here’s a quick review of Mark Millar Swamp Thing issues from 15 years ago.

A few standout reads when he sticks to self contained stories.

153- The 2nd Part of the River Run storyline, is like all the parts easily enjoyed without reading the others. SWAMP THING is lost between worlds, stumbling from Earth to Earth in an attempt to save the soul of a young writer. In 153 we are introduced to a world where Germany won World War II, and Marilyn Monroe is the wife of the new Fuhrer. It’s an interesting stand alone story, nothing that will amaze, but a solid read, and Chris Weston does a solid job on art. The letters page BAYOU RHYTHMS contains mostly praise for issues 149-150. B-.

154- Sees the return of the art team of Phillip Hester and Kim Demulder, bringing their A game in what amounts to a really fantastic issue of Millar’s run, “THE BAD SEED”. It’s a really quite creepy and disturbed issue. Strong recommendation. A great issue. B+.

155-It took me a couple attempts to actually finish this issue, I’m not quite sure why, but once done I have to say it was quite a great issue. An earth with a familiar Solomon Grundy, and a hero to face him, and the secrets that lie in Slaughter Swamp. Really quite well done, with great art by the team of Hester and Demulder. B+.

156- Sees the paper quality go up dramatically over the newsprint seen in the previous issues and this really makes the art/colors pop off the page. Add to this the art is by Phil Jimenez, definitely channeling the great work of Totleben and Bissette from the glory days of the series, and it looks gorgeous. The best work I’ve seen from him. I love to see an artist play with the layout, panel compositions, textures, it just makes the story come alive. And Kim Demulder does a great job inking, add to that Millar is telling a fantastic story of a world where Alec Holland has not yet become a… Swamp Thing. Great issue! B+/A-.

157- “The ugliest person in every relationship has to be the breadwinner.” That line alone makes me love this issue. :)While it doesn’t stand on its own as a self contained story like the previous issues what is there is page turning good. Have you ever received a chain letter? What did you do with it? This is the story of a comic book writer who may have done the wrong thing with it. B+. Nice thoughtful letters on issue #153 topic of fascism run rampant.

158- This is the wrapup to the RIVER RUN storyline that has been running, and its pretty uninspired. The story is really underwhelming, and undeserving of the issues prior. And Phillip Hester’s art here is very uninspired. He is given a splash page to make the Parliment look awe-inspiring, and they look like nothing much at all. The Fantastic is obviously not Phil Hester’s strength. All in all a very poor issue. D-/F.

159-Mark Millar follows up one of his worst issues on the title with one of his best. A great stand alone story (it’s obvious that’s where Millar’s strength is) about a boy and his lost dog, and a most exclusive men’s club. The art is by Jill Thompson who is very welcome after the abomination of the last issue. Really entertaining issue. B+/A-.

160-161- Could not get into these two issues at all. Lot of exposition for expositions sake.

Check status or purchase your issues of Mark Millar’s SWAMP THING here

That’s all for this installment.

Matthew Vaughn’s KICK-ASS Movie vs Mark Millar’s KICK-ASS Graphic Novel!


How to begin.

Let us be blunt and unsubtle, since that is in a nutshell what KICK-ASS, The Movie, wallows in.

Woah, tell me how you really feel.

Okay, since you asked. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve never had to go back and retweak a review. But my first viewing of KICK-ASS, I immensely disliked one particular part of the film, one character’s story arc (and I still dislike it), and it strongly colored my whole perception of the film.

And I think my original review, which follows focused too heavily on just that negative aspect of the film.

But there is a lot to like about KICK-ASS, a lot to like about Matthew Vaughn’s direction, and Matthew and Jane Goldman’s script, brings a lot of originality, strength, and humor to the source material. There’s lot of innovative, fun stuff in the script that wasn’t in the source material, and Matthew Vaughn’s commentary is as interesting as the film.

So that’s my revised review, because I felt my original review (below) while I still stand behind all the problems I had with the film, there’s a lot of great things that went into this film as well that deserved a bit of praise.

Okay onto the original review:

Having just finished the DVD (not having read the Graphic Novel first) I’m unusually divided on the film. I’m glad I didn’t pay to see this in the movie, or buy the DVD, but the film isn’t a simple one to dismiss or enjoy.

Why?

Because the movie while well made and well performed, I thought was way too morally bankrupt and more than a bit irresponsible. Not everything that comes into your head, should go out your mouth. And having a little child spout language that would give a sailor pause, which only nominally phased me while watching the film, but really began to trouble me in hindsight, serves questionable sensationalist and prurient needs. Ultimately the creators’ needs.

The film was a well paced, garishly colored spider-man type take off as constructed through the slightly demented psyche of series creator Mark Millar. However the caveat being it is a normal teen kid, nerd, who decides to don a costume and fight crime.

So brain off, it is a typical blood and bullets action flick, right? Well not quite.

Have we pushed the envelope of adults, being effed up, violent, cursing sociopaths so far that we have to now try and get children to act out these fantasies? I don’t know, it didn’t quite sit right with me.

Less for what the film is then what the film opens the door to.

Everything, all values, sacrificed to the selfish needs of ever more egregious creators, and an ever more deadened audience.

And perhaps that selfish need, to push the envelope, when weighed against the needs of the story, the needs of the young actress, and the needs of the young viewers who will ultimately get their hands on this movie, dressed up as a kid’s comic movie, perhaps the writer and director’s needs… should be outweighed. Not by committee, but by themselves.

Not everything that comes into our heads, should come out our mouths, or worse yet a young actress’ mouth.

Young Actors generally have a hard life. As they find their childhood chewed up in service of people who just “Want to have a laugh” as the brits would put it (Yes, I know Millar is Scottish).

Millar, spoke somewhat jokingly about, during the auditions, being slightly disturbed hearing his lines uttered by these young girls. A whole generation of Jon Benet Ramsey’s in the making?

And he should be disturbed. “Humanity is also our business” to quote the THIRD MAN. Because to some extent it’s a bit of child endangerment, and bad parenting, and something a bit seedier, that you have to embrace, and ask others to embrace, in order to portray these things.

The creators’ need to be shocking for shocking’s sake, which may work in the rather insular world of comics where people are “in” on the conventions you’re attempting to satirize and transgress, works less well in the broader world of cinema.

Making mountains out of molehills? Possibly, but at what point does paying a child actress to do what we want, to bring someone’s fantasy to life, cross the line? At what point does art stop and something not terribly unlike pornography begin? And whose responsibility is it to ask these questions, seek these answers and monitor that line? At what point does the creators’ responsibility to his muse, to his characters, perhaps take back stage to his responsibility to a child actor and to larger society? Do the comic book lines, this child actress is asked to recite and internalize, do these lines have weight and purpose and value transposed to the world of the quick and the warm? Or are they part and parcel of the withering of culture, and the desensitization of man?

Those are difficult questions. And I’m not saying I have the answers, but I’m saying the KICK-ASS film blithely wallows in its transgressions, without even given those transgressions the weight of acknowledging them. Which could have potentially made them mean something. And that omission seems more than a bit of a shame.

And you have to put that weight on the screen-writers of Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman.

Having not been a fan of Millar’s WANTED comic, while being a huge fan of the much different, and much more moral, WANTED movie, scripted and humanized by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas; I went into the KICK-ASS film (where Millar had greater input) with a bit of trepidation.

Mark Millar.

I think he’s a talented writer. Starting out in main-stream comics as Hardy to Grant Morrison’s Laurel, he has written a couple things I am quite enamored of. He’s written more things that I am not a fan of.

I think it comes down to Millar is somewhat, or wants to be, the Takashi Miike of comics; absurdest and shocking for shocking’s sake. But that is when Miike, as I have stated before, in films like DOA or FUDOH is at his weakest and most boring, in films where he surrenders to the lowest common denominator in himself, when he eschews all limitations, and fills the screen with violence, body fluids, and excrement.

But give Miike a structure to work in, give him limitations, where he must resist his own temptations, his need to just “Have a laugh”. and he produces films with a surprising amount of heart, craft, and brilliance. With humanity. Films such as the oft praised THE BIRD PEOPLE IN CHINA, and THE NEGOTIATOR among others.

And I think that same sensibility is true of Mark Millar, when he rises above the quick and easy method, of shock-jock tricks, and tries to say something, tries to tell an earnest story… he can be devastating. He can bring us THE ULTIMATES, he can bring us CROSSOVER.

And that’s because limitations aren’t the end of art, in many ways they are the engine of it. Roberto Rodriguez’s best film by a long way, is still his first, where his lack of budget necessitated the story be there, and that the story move.

But Millar’s tendency of late has been toward the extreme for extreme’s sake and I find that incredibly lazy and boring in a book or a film. And watching KICK-ASS, that’s what I was thinking: Here’s a movie that is too true to Millar’s sensationalism, and that’s why it has no heart.

Because the KICK-ASS film when it was over, I felt oddly unmoved, uninvolved, because the characters were all relatively reprehensible, the “heroes’ as well as the villains. It felt like the cut scenes of a video game, just violence, with no narrative or heart to make the violence mean anything. And nothing made sense; the cop who becomes BIG DADDY, and trains his daughter to be a cursing, mass murdering sociopath, to get revenge for his wife’s death?! Really? Really?!!

And the ‘hero’ seems to take Hit Girl’s and Big Daddy’s Mass Murder in stride a little too easily. So ultimately on a moral scale, and what is a film about Super-heroes but a morality play writ large?, I just had real issues with the film. The film walked a relatively serious line, too serious to give it any personality as a dark satire/comedy.

However, the film is not without its moments, that early scene where Kick-Ass saves a guy from a group of thugs… has real heart. And it does have definite strengths. It looks great. Director Matthew Vaughn knows how to keep the action moving, Aaron Johnson, Mark Strong, Nicolas Cage and Chloe Grace Moretz as Hit-Girl lead a strong cast, the character designs are more innovative, and I think the script in places, was strong, and interesting, but I think the lynchpin of the film, has to rest with the arc of Chloe Grace Morez as Hit-Girl, in many ways I felt her salvation to be the central theme. Perhaps the very reason the stars aligned to give birth to a Kick-Ass, so he could be there… to set her free.

That’s the idealist in me talking of course, but hopefully that’s why people go to see these modern myths played out, to remind themselves, in an increasingly rudderless age, of ideas worth defending. Ultimately the film’s moral stance, or lack of, in the script by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman outweighs the strengths of the movie.

But is the script just being true to Millar’s source, or does it diverge?

So I came here to review the film. But thought it was necessary to also review the source material, the comic series, and see what the two medium’s shared, and how they differed, and where the movie went wrong.

I just completed it and have to say… the graphic novel addresses many of the issues I had with the movie. Excellent structure, married to I thought a far more engrossing story-arc for Hit-Girl and Big-Daddy. The true origin of Big-Daddy and Hit-Girl, is pretty ambitious, and pretty brilliant, being both sad, horrific, and costly. And gives a weight, and pathos, and tragedy that’s completely missing in the film.

Vaughn said he was worried about kids following the antics of a Kick-Ass, and I think by eschewing Millar’s downer ending, for both Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl, he does glamorize his protagonists murdering antics, rather than an ending that redeems them.

In the graphic novel, Mark Millar offers subtle and human, in-between the violence. Restraint and humanity. When Millar mixes these elements in his writing he’s great, when he loses these touchstones, in pursuit of the cheap shock, or cheaper violence, he bores me and loses me as a reader (As in his WANTED graphic novel). Thankfully and surprisingly, KICK-ASS is Millar talking to us, rather than at us… and it is for the most part effective.

And effective is a word that also describes the art. John Romita Jr, is an artist that can be hit or miss with me, but he is great in this series. His slightly cartoony art, a nice counterpoint, to the at times extreme actions depicted. All in all, quite impressed with the story points in this graphic novel, and the ending, particularly in comparison with the film, offered a nice bit of closure and humanity. That particularly addresses Hit Girl’s abuse (because that’s ultimately what her fathers’s sculpting of her amounts to, he’s taken a child and made a serial killer), and how she comes to terms with it.

In Millar’s book you get the sense that all that violence, finally causes her to break, and comes to terms with wanting to put away these adult things and embrace her childhood. You don’t get that sense of closure and healing in Vaughn’s film, and that closure would have gone a long way to salvaging the film for me.

As it is, for me the film is an intriguing misfire, and the graphic novel a surprised and shaky thumbs up (Shaky, because in the end the book’s premise is still a dangerous lie, of a normal kid taking on crime. If you have a kid getting beat on by 200lb bad guys, metal plate or no, should he survive, he’ll be san’s teeth, and with a heavy case of brain damage. And looking far worse than just a little blood artfully applied to the face. It’s a dangerous and unworthy lie.)

So final grades: KICK-ASS DVD/Movie C-/C+ (Very intriguing Director’s Commentary)
KICK-ASS Graphic Novel B-.