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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice Hits EW's Cover

Excited about SDCC? Us too! While I'm generally there for the comics and the opportunity to hob-knob with my favorite creators (of which many will be in attendance), it's hard not to get a little excited about movie news that often rolls out of the event. This year sees Warner Bros. taking the big spotlight on Saturday, and Entertainment Weekly has some brand new images, as well as the above cover, spotlighting Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice:

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Bruce Campbell Returns As Ash In First Ash Vs. Evil Dead Photo

Entertainment Weekly has the first look at Bruce Campbell returning to the role that made him a Horror icon, Ash Williams, in the above photo from Ash vs. Evil Dead. The series is a continuation of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead franchise, which I love to pieces. I'm not excited about the fact that it's coming to Starz specifically, and I'm not wholly sure I'll get the network just for it, but I'm tempted. 

I mean, it's fucking Ash Williams you guys!
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Review: Terminator Genisys

In the waning moments of Terminator GenisysAlan Taylor's attempt to revitalize this moribund franchise, there is a scene where the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and the titular heroes Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese (reimagined by the woefully miscast Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney) are arrested by the local police. When their mugshots are taken, the theme from COPS plays in the background. This is the kind of movie you've signed up for when you go and see Terminator Genisys.

It wasn't all bad going really, though my expectations were generally in the toilet from the outset. We're talking about the follow-up to Terminator: Salvation or the reboot/relaunch of a franchise that's been in a moribund state, unable to recapture the magic that imbued T2: Judgement Day with the ability to conquer the box office in the early 90's. We're also looking at a franchise relaunch that's being helmed by the guy that brought you Thor: The Dark World, the next in a line of mediocre filmmakers that have inherited the reins on this series in the wake of James Cameron moving on to even bigger financial pastures. With those sunken hopes in place, I sat back and found that the first 20 minutes or so of Genisys to at least be watchable.

Within that opening frame, Taylor and company attempt to set the stage for why this film should exist in the first place, though it's a fairly tenuous excuse: John Connor (Jason Clarke, no relation to the above), Reese, and the human resistance that's in place during the fall of humanity, post-Judgement Day, discover Skynet's time travel device. Due to Reese's weird obsession with John's mother, Sarah Connor, that Courtney completely fails to sell, John picks his right hand man as the person to send on a time traveling journey to protect Sarah and stop Judgement Day from occurring. Sounds pretty familiar, right? Short of an attack on John that occurs during the fireworks that send Reese back in time, you're looking at a story that's doing backflips to establish its own relevancy in the shadow of a much better set of films.

To their credit, Taylor and his art direction team do a pretty nice job of recreating the atmosphere of Cameron's original (and best) Terminator film. At this point, I was filled with questions at the very least, sucker that I am for time travel narratives: Why is Sarah Connor no longer the innocent waitress that she was in the first film? Why is a Terminator now her paternal figure? Why did Matt Smith's mysterious character attack John? Why is there a T-1000 hunting Sarah and Kyle in the timeline of the first film? It's an enjoyably dumb time, though admittedly one that's overloaded with exposition in order to remind viewers what's happening and why it's happening (seriously, poor Arnold plays the role of narrative dumping ground just as much as he does stoic father-figure). Yet, in order to avoid falling too far into the Back to the Future 2 retread trap, Kyle and Sarah take another trip in time.
That's where things fall apart completely.

Taylor's narrative, once it hits 2017 - the next timehop destination - gives way to weightless CGI battles, a non-starter plot regarding what's basically an evil iPhone app, and twisty timeline logic that the script simply doesn't have time to address, nor does it really seem to care to. All of this while establishing a poorly set up relationship between Kyle and Sarah that casts John as the ne'er-do-well suitor and the T-800 as the disapproving father. At this point, the whole endeavor becomes an incalculable mess, full of fan service that ends up making no sense in the context of the current narrative and showcasing action beats that can only be described as tremendously boring.

The structure of Terminator Genisys basically falls into "our heroes are chased by a bad guy, they hide out in a bunker of some sort and explain the plot to one another, arrested, bunker/hide-out, chased by a bad guy, arrested etc." If I see Arnold throw someone through a wall again, it'll be too soon. The only real bright spot in the final two-thirds of the movie is when J.K. Simmons pops up on screen as a detective who first encountered Reese and Connor in 1984 as a uniform police officer and has been obsessed with them ever since. It's a character that's actually somewhat compelling and has a unique perspective on the ongoing Skynet vs. Connors battle that we've seen warmed over so many times, it's become tedious. As my friend who sat next to me at the screening said: I wish the whole movie had just focused on him.

What Terminator Genisys brought to bear for me is that this is a franchise, much like Jurassic Park, that is drug down by actually being a franchise. The original Terminator was a lean and mean showcase for a hungry young science fiction-minded filmmaker that told a wonderfully executed, done in one, finite tale. Even its first sequel, as enjoyable as it was, was really just an excuse to retell Terminator in 90's clothes and take advantage of Arnold's stature as a megastar. It's been a case of diminishing returns ever since, and it's possible that Terminator Genisys is the worst offering of the lot. That it exists to clearly perpetuate more sequels, with a post-credits scene that I bet even the writers don't have an explanation for, may actually make it the worst of the lot. 

You can say a lot of things about Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator: Salvation, but at least they had, respectively, a surprisingly downbeat ending and an attempt to tell a different kind story within this universe. Terminator Genisys does neither of these things; it's just a much blander version of far better films.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Comics Spotlight Review: 8House: Arclight #1

Since the beautifully weird Prophet, Brandon Graham has been one of the creators whose work I can't ignore. His style of storytelling, while oftentimes difficult and slow, is unique and rewards readers who pay close attention and reread. To put it lightly, I was pretty excited to hear about the new set of series that he is helming, 8House, which features many different creators giving interconnected takes on the eight magical realms of this new sci-fi fantasy universe. The first, Arclight, comes out this week and is written by Graham himself, with Marian Churchland providing the art.

8House: Arclight #1, in typical Brandon Graham fashion, goes in with a cold open as we see Sir Arclight, a gender neutral knight, and her Lady, a woman who seems to have the body made up of tree branches, as they explore the outer limits of their realm to discover what sort of alien entity has crossed through their kingdom. They find a dying creature and manage to save it through a blood magic ritual that allows it to exchange bodies. They return to Cserce-Miasta, the capital of the Blood House kingdom, to investigate, only to find that the mystery of the Lady's strange body has come to the forefront.

Among the many things that make this a supremely intriguing first issue are the rules of the magic and gender in this universe. It seems body-swapping is a theme that will be explored further, which is only further hinted at by the fact that all characters so far are gender neutral. The only exception is in the holographic picture of the Lady's past, in which she is portrayed as a human woman with a man, hinting that perhaps gender is a thing of the past in this world.

Churchland renders this world with beautiful range, running the gambit from stunning outdoor vistas to club scenes. She is able to capture the mood and time of day expertly, and is able to show the passage of time purely through color and shading in a way that I haven't really experienced before. She utilizes and interesting color palette that is both muted and imaginative, and rides the line between sci-fi and fantasy very well.

While this first issue only gives us the briefest of glimpes into the world of 8House, that glimpse is a fascinating one. Graham and Churchland are able to create a whole new universe without overloading us on exposition, and the result is a graceful introduction to the world and characters that leaves just enough to imagination to make it interesting. While Prophet gave us an ever expanding and strange cosmos, 8House seems to be following the same route but with magic and gender being the primary ideas to be explored, and I'm definitely onboard for the ride.

8House: Arclight #1 releases in comic stores this Wednesday, with this story taking up the first four issue arc of 8House.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

New Line To Take Over Vertigo Adaptations

Creating a shared universe on-screen is tough work, especially if you're starting at the ground-level like Warner Bros is doing with their DC Comics properties.
Currently the studio has nine films currently either in production or in pre-production stages, which are slated to establish the DC Cinematic Universe (The FlashGreen LanternCyborg, etc...).

With all that in mind, it left many to wonder about the status of films like Sandman and Guillermo Del Toro's long simmering Dark Universe. According to THR, the former, and most other Vertigo adaptations, will now be handled by WB's sister arm New Line, which they absorbed many a moon ago.

Strangely, Dark Universe will remain at Warner Bros, and will conceivably continue to be attached to the DC properties that surround it. The bad news? Del Toro is off the project, which sadly, is not a new feeling where he's concerned. On the other hand, Shazam! will continue to be developed by New Line, meaning much like the Vertigo properties they're working on, Shazam! may very well not be connected to the DC Cinematic Universe either.

You get all that? In summary: all of Warner Bros. superhero movies except Shazam! will be developed by WB, all Vertigo movies except Dark Universe will be developed by New Line. I'm getting a headache just thinking about it.
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Best Covers of the Week, Vol. 80

Amazing Spider-Man #19.1
by Yasmine Putri

I'm really digging Putri's covers, and this might be my favorite. The light and color play here is phenomenally fun!

 Zombies vs. Robots #7
by Mark Torres

The extremely old school style here is exquisitely executed. Perfect color choice, great design, and a fun idea!

 Detective Comics #42
by Francis Manapul

Manapul's Detective covers often feel bigger than cover sized–this one seems to capture a huge part of Gotham and gives us a classic concept literally turned on its head.

 The Humans #6
by Tom Neely

The design here is very nice, but its the colors that are really eye catching. The characters really jump off the page!

 Secret Wars #4
by Erica Henderson

I love these kind of colorful geometric designs, but it's the absolutely lovely character work that makes Henderson's stand out so well.

 Spire #1
by Jeff Stokely

The color palette and level of detail here are unique, and along with the perspective provide a single image that has me excited to learn more about this world.

 The Omega Men #2
by Trevor Hutchinson

These propaganda style covers, with their grainy shading and fantastic design are just plain awesome!

 The Spirit #1
by John Cassaday

Cassaday gives the three-tone cover a try and gives us something very nice. The perspective lends the image a sense of heroic adventure!

That's it for this week. What did I miss? Let me know on Twitter or Facebook!
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Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Month Of Venturing Into The DC You: Week Four

Here we go, it's the final week! Let's cut straight to the chase and talk DC's Week 4 of their "DC You" initiative.

After last week, I'm feeling pretty good, and ready to read! What do they have in store for me?

Side-note: my LCS didn't get Teen Titans this week, so it is omitted from this list. I didn't want to buy it anyway, to be honest.

aquaman #1

Aquaman #41: My second shot with a Cullen Bunn book after Lobo landed with a thud. The last time I tried this Aquaman title was when Jeff Parker was on board, and I had trouble getting into even then, and I often enjoy Parker's writing. Conceptually, Bunn is doing something interesting: the usage of a flashback-dual narrative structure isn't new but it remains somewhat enticing, though the idea of it probably grabbed me more than the story itself. I don't think Bunn is a particularly gifted dialogue writer, and I still generally find Aquaman mostly a bore, but if it keeps up this format, I'll be down for another issue maybe....maybe. I'm at least curious to see if both threads pick up steam, provided that they continue to exist and it wasn't just a first issue thing (I've read no interviews to know either way). There's a bit of this new Aquaman tonally that also somewhat reminds of Kurt Busiek's far too short-lived Conan inspired run. I like that, on the other hand Trevor McCarthy's art was rather messy, and somewhat unclear, reminding me a bit of his rushed Batwoman arc where he took over for Amy Reeder.
Verdict: On the fence


Batgirl #41: I legitimately think Batgirl gets better every single issue, which for a mainstream superhero comic, is a pretty rare feat. This installment was another winner and provided one of the best looks at the new Batman status quo, while still relaying a "big" story through the lens of what Cameron StewartBrenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr have laid down from the beginning of their run. Also of note, this is the first issue that Stewart did not provide layouts for Tarr, so what we get here, and in subsequent issues to come, is all Tarr. There's one moment of male gaze that's probably going to catch some ire, and it's a weird miscalculation. But outside of that one panel, I'm a big big big fan.
Verdict: Already on my pull and staying there 


Deathstroke #7: Yikes, what a disaster this book is. Sub-Image 90's garbage. To add insult to injury, Hephaestus is completely out of character from how he was presented in the Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang Wonder Woman run, one of the best New 52 launch titles. This book is representative of the kind of stuff that people accused the New 52 of being: obsessed with EXTREME storytelling. Tony Daniel is a gifted artist, and at times ("Batman R.I.P.") produces really nice looking work, but as a writer...well, at least he's relegated to a book I don't care about at all, and have no reason to at this point.
Verdict: Stopping here

Flash 41

The Flash #41: Good lord, the exposition! It had been a minute since I'd read a Robert Venditti-Van Jensen co-written comic, but wow, was this an awkward read! I'm not sure if previous issues of their run tried as hard to tie into The Flash television series, but they're really bending over backwards here to shoe-horn in not only the "father wrongly imprisoned" subplot, but also a Joe West stand-in. Brett Booth, who I am decidedly not a fan of, doesn't help much, but the painfully overwritten narration and dialogue isn't his fault. Perhaps for those who have been reading this run regularly, this issue pays off better, but I found myself rolling my eyes more often than not.
Verdict: Stopping here

Gotham by Midnight

Gotham By Midnight #6: A decent read, and I think Juan Ferreya makes for a slightly clearer if somewhat duller artist for this "supernatural side of Gotham" series than Ben TemplesmithRay Fawkes, whose creator-owned work I generally enjoy, really hasn't quite grabbed me during his DC tenure and this issue doesn't do much to change that. This is basically a book I like more in theory than in actual execution, having tried a couple of different issues at this point. I want to like a Jim Corrigan/Spectre series so badly, but I'm just not sure this is ever going to be a book that scratches that itch for me. I sure liked the ghostly imagery though!
Verdict: Stopping here

Grayson 9

Grayson #9: Remember how much I liked Batgirl this week? I think I liked Grayson even more. I know I go on and on about it, but the Tom King scripted issues of this series are absolutely some of the best adventure comics DC has released in years. From the hilarious opening bit that takes a different angle on the first issue's train sequence, to the introduction of a new cabal of spies that has pretty big ramifications to DC's larger espionage picture, to more tongue in cheek moments between Dick and Agent 1, this is basically the DC comic that I never knew I needed in my life. Now that I have it, I never want to let it go. I'm also glad to see Mikel Janin on a book better suited to his talents, as King gives him some wonderfully cinematic moments here. That two-page spread of the necklace heist was my favorite action beat of the week.
Verdict: Already on my pull-list and staying there

GL Lost army

Green Lantern: Lost Army #1: Now here was a surprise! I really don't care about Green Lantern much at all, and I generally checked out of the character about a year into Geoff Johns' New 52 run. I've dabbled here and there since, but I've never felt much of an urge to return. Even this month's opening chapter to the "Renegade" storyline only somewhat intrigued me enough to probably pick up next month's offering. Here, Cullen Bunn does the flashback thing again, but it works a good deal better this time, playing with the story tropes of LOST (which in turn was riffing on Watchmen). These "stranded in an unknown galaxy" stories can either go really well (Legion Lost) or really badly (Star Trek: Voyager), but Bunn has produced a solid enough cast to start out with, that I think this is a title with stronger promise than anything else he's working on right now. It's nice to be excited about a Green Lantern book again, and if they can capture the wonder and unknowns of space exploration, this'll be one to keep an eye on. I already somewhat think that's the case already.
Verdict: Going onto the pull-list

JL 3001

Justice League 3001 #1: Totally impenetrable, good Howard Porter art though. I really don't have much to add here, as I find this book about as shrug-worthy as I did when I picked up the first three issues of Justice League 3000. I just don't think it's a strong enough title for me to tough out its learning curve, and this new Justice League simply doesn't engage me at all.
Verdict: Stopping here

Superman 41

Superman #41: Good, though maybe a little stiff, as I'm finding many of the recent better DC runs' first issues have been. I'm fascinated by how this story gets to where Superman is in Action Comics, and I think Gene Luen Yang is going somewhere cool with the character. I especially like just how human Clark is when faced with a threat that his powers can't do anything about. You can't solve everything with your fists, and that sort of existential crisis is just the kind of tale that can get me re-engaged with Superman again. For the first time in a long time, DC has two worthwhile Superman titles, I'm very glad to see it.
Verdict: Going to the pull-list

We Are Robin

We Are...Robin #1: Badly conceived teenage dialogue masks what could have been a pretty enjoyable read. I like the fact that Duke Thomas is the star of the book, but I found everything that came out of the character's mouth to be cringe-worthy. I bet if you took the dialogue balloons away, you'd have a pretty enjoyable tale of teenage rebellion in the face of a city-wide catastrophe. It's amazing how badly one aspect of a story can drag the whole thing down, but there it is. How funny is it that 58 year old Paul Levitz can better capture that youthful voice than not-even-40 Lee Bermejo was able to?
Verdict: Stopping here

So that's it! I'm done! What did I think of the DC You launch month on the whole? The Batman line is stronger than ever, with a number of great titles under its belt, Superman is off to a cracking start, both Justice League books are pretty enjoyable and DC's has a number of titles on the fringe that are must-reads. I'd say on the whole, DC's commitment to creator vision this time around has led them to a much more successful launch than the New 52. Will sales show it? Who knows, but I sure had a great time reading these books (for the most part) and I'm so glad that I'm finally re-energized about DC Comics again.

The Essential New Titles: Black CanaryConstantine: The HellblazerDoctor FateGreen Lantern: Lost ArmyJLAMidnighter, The Omega MenPrez, and Starfire.

And, of course if you're not already reading BatgirlGrayson, or Gotham Academy, you're really missing out.

Thanks for sticking with me on this journey!
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