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Monday, April 25, 2016

Best Covers of the Week, Vol. 123

 Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1953 #3
by Paolo Rivera

I really like the black, white, and red color scheme here, and the clever concept that turns the nostalgic comfort of white picket fences into a violent trap.
 Injection #9
by Declan Shalvey

I really like the way this displays the characters but focuses more on motion and mood than anything else.
 Justice League #49
by Matteo Scalera

Wouldn't it be great to see Scalera on interiors for a Justice League book? His cartooning work really captures so much character, and this is a nice composition.
 The Omega Men #11
by Trevor Hutchinson

It's been a while since I've highlighted the always excellent designs on this book, and htis is one of the best!
 Sex #27
by Piotr Kowalski and Sonia Harris

The way they have played with the title overlays on this book has always fascinated me, and here it's used in such a way that it's almost hard to see the real title. This is eye-catching, well composed design that is sure to stand out.
Suicide Squad Most Wanted Deadshot and Katana #4
by Cary Nord

I really like the texture here, and the strange perspective that really makes you look twice. Great color work as well!

That's it for this week. What did I miss? Let me know on Twitter or Facebook!
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X-MEN: APOCALYPSE trailer has one last surprise to reveal

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

It feels like we've been talking about 2016's superhero movies for years and years and years now (I know I have, anyway). But once we clear Captain America: Civil War, and it will inevitably dominate conversation for a while, Bryan Singer's latest X-Men film is still out there to grasp whatever attention it can at the end of May. Here's the latest trailer, that drops at least one new detail, though it was surely inevitable:

Yep, looks like Hugh Jackman is playing a role in this after all. You can collect your winnings now. See you kids on Memorial Day weekend!
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Saturday, April 23, 2016

The GeekRex Podcast Episode 121: Movie Club #4 - Z

In the fourth installment of the GeekRex Movie Club, we discuss Costa-Gavras' masterful 1969 political thriller Z. We dig into how it builds into a timeless political commentary despite it's very specific subject matter, the phenomenal editing, and how it influenced future procedural storytelling. Z is available to watch on Hulu+.

Music Used in this Episode
Mikis Theodorakis - "Z Theme"
You can listen below, or subscribe on iTunes to never miss an episode! If you like the show, or have any comments or ideas, we'd love to hear them! Check us out on Facebook or Twitter. See you next week!

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Review: DARK SOULS #1 Lacks Patience

With any adaptation, there are two fundamental questions: Is this a good story in itself, and is it a good adaptation? And while the first question is the more important of the two - a great story can draw you in regardless of fidelity - the second is not unimportant. We often fall in love with the stories we fall in love with for specific, subtle, difficult-to-define reasons. The surface is easy to replicate but barely matters at all; it is the things that get under our skin that stick with us. Take, for instance, Dark Souls. Dark Souls is one of my favorite video games. I am currently about 40 hours in to the recently released Dark Souls III. And when I see people talk about it online, I always shake my head: "It's so hard," "It's so grim," "It's dark fantasy," "There's no plot." They say it as thought that is the reason the series has been such a monumental success, despite breaking so many of the rules of modern video games.

They're describing the packaging. Unfortunately, Dark Souls #1, the new comic book adaptation of the video game series that serves as a prequel to Dark Souls III, is all about the packaging, never engaging with the material beyond the surface.

In Dark Souls #1, a knight named Fira and a scryer named Aldrich hunt for the Dragon Augurer in the Crystalline Labyrinth. The Dragon Augurer holds a tooth from the Wyrm King Andolous, which they need for a quest they are on to end the undead scourge ravaging Ishra. It's a fairly stock fantasy plot, one that fits in reasonably well with the Dark Souls universe. It feels like a video game narrative: Go to point A, collect item B, proceed.

Except, that was never what Dark Souls was about. At its heart, Dark Souls is a story about humanity fighting against nature. It's not a mistake that most Souls games have very little dialogue or that what little there is tends to be looping and odd; this is a story about isolation, about walking into a hostile environment and doing everything in your power to not just survive, but to make the world even a slightly better place. You aren't trying to kill the undead king, but to relight a primal fire or destroy a corrupted dream; even that is mostly something you pick up in snippets of lore and some of the best world design I've ever seen. It's a game that seeks to set the quiet, contemplative moments right up next to the ones where you are desperately scrambling for any safe haven amidst a swarm of mysterious, implacable enemies. So many of the moments of the series downplay your character in favor of those environments, drowning them out against a mysterious skyline, a bleak forest, a town built on the cliffs above a swamp. Dark Souls #1 has none of that.

So, okay, it's a bad adaptation. For hardcore fans of the series, that will likely be frustrating, but most comic readers are not hardcore fans of the Souls games, so there's a degree to which that doesn't necessarily matter. Unfortunately, as a fantasy comic, it falls prey to all the stereotypical weaknesses of the genre without giving us much to hold on to. Dark Souls #1 opens with a full page of text outlining the mythology of the book, a dense bit of exposition that might be forgivable if the book didn't then go on to give us a page of meaningless fan service and then three more pages jam packed with exposition.

Indeed, for an epic fantasy, there's a lot of talking, and most of it is incredibly mundane. If they aren't expounding about who they are and what they want, they're talking about their inevitably tragic history, or being talked at about their inevitably tragic history. Even during the action, the characters talk like they're in a 1960s Spider-Man comic, giving artist Alan Quah less room to navigate and slowing down the pace of the combat. But even outside of combat, the mundane nature of the conversations works against the dark fantasy vibe the series is going for. Just like with Constantine: The Hellblazer and Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch, it feels like an apology for the fantasy.

The issue also struggles with visual pacing. Quah has to jam in two full action sequences here, and as a result, much of the action is relegated to tiny panels in an odd order, often surrounded by text. It feels stiff, sure, but it also means that there's no sense of danger, no dread, no tension. We know people get tired because a character says so out loud, rather than because the art portrays a particular grueling fight, or even a particularly exhausted-looking combatants. Quah's art is solid and he's well paired with colorist Norah Khor, whose colors look elaborately painted, but the two of them feel jammed in, like they're trying to fit 30 pages of comic into 20 pages of space. Let them breathe a bit, and I think this becomes a different book entirely.

Dark Souls #1 isn't a very good book yet, though I can see how it could be. If Mann and Quah can slow down, if Mann learns to trust Quah's art to speak for itself and gives him the space to tell a physical story, I think the Titan Dark Souls comic could become a solid entry to the current fantasy-comics boom. I don't believe it will ever be a particularly interesting adaptation of the games, but if Mann and Quah can play to their strengths - the lush art, the more classical fantasy tone - this might be worth watching. As a debut issue, however, Dark Souls #1 does little to convince me to pick up more.

Dark Souls #1 was written by George Mann, illustrated by Alan Quah, colored by Komikaki Studio featuring Norah Khor TCS, and lettered by Rob Steen. Published by Titan Comics, Dark Souls #1 is out now with a list price of $3.99.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Super-short, No-spoiler review: CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

Courtesy of Marvel
Last night, we took in one of the public fan-screenings of Captain America: Civil War that were held in select cities. While we expect to have a more thorough, thoughtful review closer to release, here are some general, non-specific thoughts:

Everywhere that Age of Ultron failed, Captain America: Civil War succeeds.

Second entries for Marvel directors have always been tricky – Iron Man 2, and the aforementioned Avengers: Age of Ultron being prime examples. But Joe and Anthony Russo just get it, and produce the first successful return visit for any director in the Marvel Studios canon.

Why? Mostly because Captain America: Civil War is incredibly empathetic to its characters, giving both sides of its conflict believable motivations, and lots of room for nuanced reads from its audience that may side with one particular predilection or another.

It's also the first time that I've found the "interconnected universe" to be an actual boon to the events on screen. The conflict, as formed, holds a good deal more weight because of the eight years worth of build-up that Marvel/Kevin Feige has (mostly) carefully crafted. We care about these characters, so when they fight, it hurts. This was very well played.

Additionally, the focus of the film remains on this core conflict and while the film is very well balanced between its characters, it's able to maintain a sense richness without the need to give everyone a subplot to mixed results.

The Russos also know how to shoot action. I won't compare them to Luc Besson or anything, but they understand how to compose a kinetic sequence, and at no point does a set-piece devolve into tedium. Those sort of chops are hard to come by. It's a long film, but with so much to give, and so much fun to be had, it's worth just about every minute.

I might have a qualm or two with the villain's actual scheme, which I'm not sure holds up to scrutiny (what else is new in the MCU?), and Tony Stark I think takes a *slight* mulligan as a character in order for the gears to begin to turn, but otherwise this is Star Wars-level blockbuster film-making. And back to back with The Force Awakens, Disney has produced a pair of some of the best blockbusters I've seen in years.

By the way, the best in show? Not Black Panther (who is great), not Spider-Man (who is great, Spidey fans are in for a treat by the way), but Ant-Man!! All hail Paul Rudd!

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Best Covers of the Week, Vol. 122

 Aloha, Hawaiian Dick
by Sean K. Dove

I love the tropical stylings here, and the depth that the shadows in the water bring. Nicely done!
 Captain Marvel #4
by Kris Anka

Anka's stuff is just wonderful, and here we get to see his design sense blended with action that fills every part of the frame. Impressive to see how much depth and movement can be accomplished with little shading!
 Criminal 10th Anniversary Special #1
by Sean Phillips

This is the kind of thing Phillips does best–a moody snapshot that feels both posed and very alive.
 Dragon Age: Magekiller #5
by Sachin Teng

Teng's style is pretty excellent, and is on full display here. I love how rounded and smooth everything feels despite the heat of battle.
 Fourth Planet #1
by Miko Maciaszek

This cover recalls great classic sci-fi illustrated covers. I love the undefined round frame and the careful, subtle color work.
 James Bond #6
by Dom Reardon

The blood-red water obviously makes a bold impression here, but it is the tiny scale of the action happening on board the ship that really makes this one exciting.
 Karnak #3
by David Aja

Aja is the master of capturing the essense of a character through purely design elements–there is no story, no posing, just pure illustration that gets across the idea of the titular character perfectly.
 Star Trek: Starfleet Academy #5
by Derek Charm

The color work here is excellent, and I love that it uses both the new characters in this book as well as iconic Star Trek imagery to create an exciting, retro-themed image.
Superman: American Alien #6
by Jonathan Case

Great cartooning here on both the Superman wall art and the foreground character's body language.

That's it for this week. What did I miss? Let me know on Twitter or Facebook!
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Sunday, April 17, 2016

The GeekRex Podcast Episode 120: Wonder Woman Earth One

This week we discuss the long awaited WONDER WOMAN: EARTH ONE graphic novel by Grant Morrison, Yanick Paquette, and Nathan Fairbairn. We dig into what we love, what we're not crazy about, and how this fits into Wonder Woman's history, as well as what other Wonder Woman books we would recommend to listeners.

Music Used in this Episode
Charles Fox - "Wonder Woman Theme"

You can listen below, or subscribe on iTunes to never miss an episode! If you like the show, or have any comments or ideas, we'd love to hear them! Check us out on Facebook or Twitter. See you next week!

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