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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Comics Spotlight Review: Death Sentence, Vol. 1

Death Sentence, Vol. 1
Written by Montynero, Art by Mike Dowling

Coming out in single issues through Titan Comics, Death Sentence may not be a comic you've heard a lot about yet, but there's a fair chance you'll be hearing about it more in the future.

The concept is a pretty brilliant one: the Super G virus, which gives individuals random superpowers but cuts their lifespan down to a measly six months, is spreading fast. The real kicker that jumpstarts the idea is that the Super G virus is a sexually transmitted disease, which adds a whole other dimension and gives the book an R-Rated edge. Central to Volume 1 are three people infected with the virus: Verity, a struggling painter who's stuck in a dead-end office job; 'Weasel,' a burgeoning rock star and drug addict; and Monty, a Russell Brand-esque comedian. It's important to note that all three are different kinds of artists, a theme that the book returns to often.

While the concept is exceptionally strong, the story is a bit slow–at least at first. For Verity, who is ostensibly the main character, almost nothing happens until the climactic act three. Weasel has some interesting things happen as he begins to lose control of his powers and his value as an artist to the record company, though, so there is some meat on his side of things. In the beginning, Monty seems very tertiary, just your average selfish celebrity, and acts as the comedic break in many cases.

The last two issues of Volume 1, however, bring the story to apocalyptic proportions rather suddenly, as one of the characters takes over London with their powers and forces the other two to try and stop them. The attack is very Millar-esque, with an insanely high death count and a brutality that is shocking. While it does come about quickly, the motivations behind it make sense in context, and put forth some fairly interesting ideas.

The structure of the story is lacking in some ways–it moves forward in fits and starts and doesn't get it's footing until a couple issues in–but the dialogue is solid and the ideas grand. In many ways, the book reads more like a treatise on art and how artists of all kinds are driven by invisible forces to create than a narrative, as the characters are sort of secondary to the ideas. It's not that the story is cold and doesn't care about the characters, but their purpose is less personal and more philosophical. This is a world that needs a lot of exploring, and unfortunately the first volume doesn't get a chance to delve into it as much as I would like. The unique perspective of the story and the graphic style in which it is told makes up for a lot of its problems, however.

Dowling's art is one of the strongest aspects of the book. Don't let the bizarre cover and title design throw you, as Dowling's interior work is drastically different and much better, looking a bit like Michael Lark. He puts an equal amount of care into the quiet moments as he does the giant violent action, and between the two of them, they created interesting looks for their characters and their powers that's not quite like anything else on the stands.

While it's not a perfect book, it shows a lot of potential. Death Sentence takes another crack at the superheroes-in-real-life mold, but pours in so many ideas that the mold overflows into something unlike other similar tales. It's also refreshing to read a superhero story that doesn't have to be tied to a "teen" or "teen+" rating–in a world where superpowered rock stars rule, of course there's lots of sex and drugs. The world and characters have a long way to go before becoming fully fleshed out, but for a first volume, it pulls you in with a clever concept and ends with a bang. It's certainly worth a read, and one that I'll be watching for as the story continues!

Rating: B+

You can buy Death Sentence Volume 1 on Amazon.com.
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The GeekRex Comic Buyer's Guide (7/30/14)

We know walking into your local comic shop or browsing the new titles on Comixology can be harrowing, particularly with the rising prices of comics. The GeekRex team feels your pain, so that's why each week two members of our team will collaborate and highlight the "must-buys" of every Wednesday, and we'll make sure we keep the tab under 20 bucks. Props to MultiversityComics for coming up with the great idea–we hope you like our spin on it!

This Week's Team: Kyle and Cal

Fatale #24 - $4.99 - And now the end is...here. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips Lovecraftian horror meets noir masterpiece is coming to an end, and we couldn't be sadder about it. This was one of Kyle's gateway comics into Image's new creative renaissance and it was the perfect next step from their work in the Criminal arc "Last of the Innocent". This is a great opportunity to see two masters at work and it will whet your appetite for The Fade Out, their next collaboration, in August.

Hawkeye #19 - $3.99 - Can you believe it? Another issue of Hawkeye is actually coming out? And this one is the much talked about sign language issue. Matt Fraction worked with a group called Signing Time to pull together the story of what happens after Clint's hearing has been impacted from the injuries sustained the last time we saw him. There's no text in the word balloons, and body language and signing will be relied to get the story beats across. This is challenging, exciting comics, and it's this kind of endeavor that sets Hawkeye apart from the rest of the Big Two pack. 

Prophet #45 - $3.99 - Sure, Guardians of the Galaxy is on everyone's mind right now, but Brandon Graham's Prophet has been, without question, the premiere space epic in comics, mixing Kirby outlandishness with Moebius-like landscapes and outerworld adventure. This was another of the three gateway Image titles for Kyle, and guess what? It's ending with this issue, as well. After tomorrow, Kyle's re-read of Prophet begins. Join him.

Sandman Overture #3 - $3.99 - Gaiman, Williams, Morpheus. Come on. This is essential. The release gaps have made it a little tougher to keep up with the goings-on of each issue, but once you crack open the cover..all those qualms vanish away into The Endless.

Total Price: $16.96


Pick of the Week

Seconds, by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Bryan Lee O'Malley made his name with the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels, an epic about a lost young manchild slowly growing up as he deals with some... unique relationship issues.  Scott Pilgrim cannily used popular culture as both the framework for the story and the lens through which Scott viewed his world, turning the books' central conceit into a series of 'boss battles' Scott had to fight as he grew up.  

His follow-up graphic novel, Seconds, is similar, using high-concept genre tropes (time travel, here) to offer its lead an escape - but expose the deeper traps she's built for herself.  Like Scott, Seconds protagonist Katie is stuck in a rut.  She opened and ran the kitchen of one of the hottest new restaurants in town, but her financial mistakes and lack of vision have locked her out of management (and its money).  As she watched friends move on to bigger and better things, she felt trapped by a series of bad decisions and a future that was looking increasingly bleak.  So when she's given the opportunity to go back and time and fix some of those mistakes, she jumps on it - regardless of the warnings of dire consequences should she continue to abuse this power.

Like the recently-discussed OGN Interesting Drug and last year's underrated film About Time, Seconds is, at heart, a story about the fantasy of 'fixing' your life, and the hard realization that, ultimately, it's best to live the life you have to the fullest than worry about the ones you don't.  But O'Malley has a vivid imagination, and his lush cartoons and gorgeous design makes Seconds a vital read.  Ballantine Books' gorgeous hardcover, released in mid-July, is a must-have for genre fans looking for a great graphic novel.

Looking for something interesting to pick up that isn't quite brand new? Love finding a surprising treat on the trade paperback shelf at your local comic book shop? Here's our recommendation for this week's graphic novel selection: - See more at: http://www.geekrex.com/2014/07/the-geekrex-comic-buyers-guide-72314.html#sthash.3Asbd9

Looking for something interesting to pick up that isn't quite brand new? Love finding a surprising treat on the trade paperback shelf at your local comic book shop? Here's our recommendation for this week's graphic novel selection: - See more at: http://www.geekrex.com/2014/07/the-geekrex-comic-buyers-guide-72314.html#sthash.3Asbd9oL.dpuf
Looking for something interesting to pick up that isn't quite brand new? Love finding a surprising treat on the trade paperback shelf at your local comic book shop? Here's our recommendation for this week's graphic novel selection: - See more at: http://www.geekrex.com/2014/07/the-geekrex-comic-buyers-guide-72314.html#sthash.3Asbd9oL.dpu
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Monday, July 28, 2014

Best Covers of the Week, Vol. 32

Deep Gravity #1
by Gabriel Hardman

Hardman does excellent sci-fi. Great perspective and exciting ideas!

  The Massive #25
by John Paul Leon

I love that the explosion almost works as a design element with its minimal shading. Great contrast here.

  Bodies #1
by Fiona Stephenson

I'm a sucker for these retro pieces, but the type design here is really interesting, too.

  Mind MGMT #24
by Matt Kindt

Aw yeah. What a killer fold out with a great sense of powerful movement.

  Sandman: Overture #3
by J. H. Williams

Wow. Gorgeous color (obviously) with detail that you could stare at for ages. The silhouetted fence in the foreground gives it meaning, like we're staring over into some alternate plane of existence.

 Low #1
by Greg Tocchini

Tocchini does magical concepts wonderfully, and this one is about as intriguing as it gets!

Cartoon Network Super Secret Crisis War #2
by Derek Charm

Vilgax, Aku, Mandark, and Mojo Jojo?! I just don't see how our heroes can get out of this one!

That's it for this week. What did I miss? Let me know on Twitter or Facebook!  
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The GeekRex Comic Buyer's Guide (7/23/14)

We know walking into your local comic shop or browsing the new titles on Comixology can be harrowing, particularly with the rising prices of comics. The GeekRex team feels your pain, so that's why each week two members of our team will collaborate and highlight the "must-buys" of every Wednesday, and we'll make sure we keep the tab under 20 bucks. Props to MultiversityComics for coming up with the great idea–we hope you like our spin on it!

This Week's Team: Harper and Shane

Batman #33 - $4.99 - This is a total no-brainer: the finale in the year long Zero Year, and it's been awesome up to this point. Between Snyder's clever and surprising story, Capullo's cinematic art, and the unique color palette this story's gone with, it's easily the best thing at DC right now.

Saga #21 - $2.99 - The jump ahead in time a couple issues back was fun and a nice change of pace, but it was the violent introduction of the new robot character that closed out the last issue that makes this one such an exciting release. It's always a must-get, but this issue's especially intriguing.


Velvet #6 - $3.50 - It's been a bit since we got an issue of Brubaker and Epting's excellent reworking of the spy story that GeekRex has been raving about since issue #1. If you've been interested, this is the beginning of a new arc and a great place to jump on!


Wonder Woman #33 - $2.99 - We're nearing the end of one of our favorite titles at DC, and while it's always a great read, the eminent finale makes this one worthy of your comics dollar.


Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #1 - $3.99 - The Doctor is not new to comics by any means, but now Titan Comics has control of the rights and is celebrating by releasing a new set of on-going series.  Both the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors (played by David Tennant and Matt Smith respectively) are getting their own series with a series based on Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor coming later this Fall.  With Al Ewing on writing duties for the Eleventh Doctor's new adventures, consider at least this one a must buy first issue.

Total Price: $18.46


Pick of the Week
Looking for something interesting to pick up that is not brand new? Love finding a surprising treat on the trade paperback shelf at your local comic shop? Here's our recommendation for this week's graphic novel selection: - See more at: http://www.geekrex.com/2014/07/the-geekrex-comic-buyers-guide-7914.html#sthash.Xp7lOdHJ.dpuf
Looking for something interesting to pick up that isn't quite brand new? Love finding a surprising treat on the trade paperback shelf at your local comic book shop? Here's our recommendation for this week's graphic novel selection:

Guardians of the Galaxy by Abnett and Lanning: The Complete Collection Volume 1 - Marvel Comics - $34.99

You may not have heard, but we are a little over a week away from a certain Guardians of the Galaxy movie being released.  Thanks to the film, a lot more people have now heard of  Marvel's intergalactic team of misfits.  What you may not know is that the upcoming film is NOT based on the current run by Brian Michael Bendis, but is instead based on what was written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.  Running from 2008 to 2010, the second volume of Guardians of the Galaxy featured the team you will be seeing on the big screen as well as Quasar and Adam Warlock.  The run has been out of print for quite some time, causing a lot of frustration for those curious to read it after the film's announcement (leading many who had the trades to sell them for quite the profit on eBay).  Even if the movie ends up not being too great, at least this run on Guardians, quite popular among readers, is now coming back into print with two sets of Complete Collections.  Volume 1, releasing this week, will collect issue 1-12 of the 25 issue run.  Volume 2 collects issues 13-25 and is coming before the end of the year.  If you find yourself curious about what James Gunn and Marvel Studios found so intriguing about this property, this trade paperback collection is a must buy.  NOTE: Comic shops will be the only place you will be able to get this collection starting this Wednesday.  Book stores, including Amazon, will have the collection beginning August 12.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Best Covers of the Week, Vol. 31

Revival #22
by Jenny Frison

What a gorgeously creepy cover. I love how the shading and coloring take something beautiful and make it incredibly ominous.

  Life with Archie #37
by Tommy Lee Edwards

There are some great covers for this issue, but this one might be my favorite. I like that the coloring is not somber and the simple but extremely effective facial cartooning.

  Justice League Dark #33
by Mikel Janin

Speaking of creepy...Janin is one of the best artists DC has. Just a striking and bombastic horror cover that Janin pulls off with a great level of detail while retaining his signature smooth style.

  Wonder Woman #33
by Joshua Middleton

While I love Chiang's regular cover, Middleton's is definitely my favorite cover this week. I love the art deco style and shading, and the incredibly intricate radiant light from both directions. This will be a sought-after variant for sure!

  Zero #9
by Tonci Zonjic

While employing a wide variety of artists, Zero continues to have some of the most unique and intriguing covers, and this one exemplifies that with it's architectural and monochromatic design.

  Supreme Blue Rose #1
by Tula Lotay

I think the Fiona Staples-like art is really beautiful, and I also love the design, both in the text and the enigmatic connected pods. An intriguing one.

 Velvet #6
by Steve Epting

I love when a cover attempts to emulate another medium, and this one imitates classic fiction novels elegantly and excellently. I especially like the impressionistic background.

  Afterlife with Archie #6
by Francesco Francavilla

You didn't think I'd forgotten, did you? This might be my favorite Afterlife cover yet. It's gross, creepy as hell, and I couldn't be more excited for it!

That's it for this week. What did I miss? Let me know on Twitter or Facebook!  
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Friday, July 18, 2014

The GeekRex Podcast Episode 57 - Our Mid-Year Report Card For Movies In 2014

It's time for the second installment of our Mid-Year Report Cards, and this time Cal, Harper, Hannah, Shane and Kyle are focusing on movies. Listen to us discuss what we each thought was the Best Movie, Best Performance and our personal pick for an Oscar Hopeful for this year. 

You can also see our full Mid-Year Report Card for links to purchase or pre-order each of these films.

Alexandre Desplat - "Traditional Arrangement - Moonshine" (Grand Budapest Hotel OST)

You can listen to the GeekRex podcast on the player below, on our Podomatic Page, or subscribe on iTunes.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

2014 Mid-Year Report Card: Movies

Happy Half-New Year! We're at the midway point of 2014, and thought this would be a good time to take a look at what our favorite pop culture items are so far. This week: Movies!

Our team picks our what each think was the best release in the first half of the year, the standout performance by an actor or actress, and lastly our choice for a specific superlative that we hope to see rewarded by the Academy Awards in the next Oscars.

You can purchase/pre-order a selected copy of each of these films by clicking on the title.


Best Movie: Grand Budapest Hotel

Although it had some stiff and varied competition (The Raid 2, Edge of Tomorrow), Wes Anderson's newest film just happened to blow me out of the water. I'm a pretty big fan, but I thought his last couple films have been his weakest. With GBH, I was thrilled to see the awesome cast, and it brought back the laughs that Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom did not elicit from me. From the opening framing scenes to he little animated dancing man in the credits, I had a smile on my face throughout. Anderson found a really unique new setting for his style that happened to work absolutely perfectly and we get everything from a slapstick prison break to an absurd spy thriller. To this moment, I still can't think of any problems I have with the movie whatsoever, and if the blu-ray was sitting next to me right now, I'd pop it in without a thought!

Outstanding Performance: Andy Serkis, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I know it just came out, I know. But as I looked over my list of 2014 movies, although I saw a lot of great films, I had a hard time thinking of one particular performance that stood out, except for one. If you've read my review, you know that although the human parts left me wanting more, I couldn't be more satisfied with the performance of all the Apes, mostly in Caesar, played masterfully by Andy Serkis. The level of dedication, research, and sheer craftsmanship that had to go into someone playing a different species but granting them that level of reality and compelling emotionality is something that deserves a lot of praise in my book. I dare you to try just for a moment to stand in front of a mirror and be Caesar for a moment, portraying all that power, sadness, and character–without speaking and with a bunch of motion capture crap all over your face!

Oscar Hopeful: Cinematography - The Raid 2

When I got a chance to see The Raid 2 at a local film festival, I felt so lucky that I got to see the new greatest action movie ever before it caught on in regular release–only it never really did. I often will take style over content (see my pick for best film last year, Stoker), and this is a movie with style punching itself through a brick wall, none of which is more evident than in its cinematography. Tied with smart editing, the sideways tracking shots, zooming birds eye, and tight closeups all keep the tense action exciting and interesting despite the 2.5 hours runtime. If you need more convincing as to why this deserves celebrating, just watch this video of how they accomplished the "through the car" shot.


Best Movie: Snowpiercer

This movie wasn't perfect - there was some clumsy dialogue and a fairly abrupt ending - but I was so surprised by each and every turn the film took, and I loved the Cube-like approach to unveiling each boxcar on the train. This movie is definitely a love it or hate it proposition, and though it's unlikely to get any Oscar love this year, it's top of my list so far.

Outstanding PerformanceRalph Fiennes, Grand Budapest Hotel 
This was another favorite film of the year, and I can zero in on the exact reason: Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes channels a formal, anachronistic leading male in what was probably both one of the most charming and funny performances I've seen in a long time.

Oscar Hopeful: Best Animated Movie - The Lego Movie 
This was actually in strong contention for my favorite movie of the year, but by a hair I decided to put it here instead. This is one of those movies that will always bring me comfort and joy. Taking an incredibly self-aware approach, The Lego Movie underscores the fact that the movie is a marketing vehicle and showcases the negative and positive facets of the commodity it promotes. 


Best Movie: Mistaken For Strangers 
The tale of Tom Berninger, the younger brother of The National's Matt Berninger, is a film I almost forgot was released in 2014 as we caught it in the earlier portion of the year. There's a lot of competition for this top spot between Only Lovers Left Alive, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Locke, Snowpiercer, and We Are The Best!; but I think that this fairly straight-forward narrative of brothers and the difficulty of being in the shadow of a much more famous sibling despite your own burgeoning talents is a wonder to behold. Tight, concise, and uproariously funny, Mistaken for Strangers is one of the best rock documentaries ever made.

Outstanding Performance: Tom Hardy, Locke
Imagine, a camera focused on a performer for the entirety of a film's running time, with no supporting players beyond a few ADR'd voice-overs. The pressure on an actor to deliver would be immense, and yet, Tom Hardy nails a tour-de-force of serene beauty, portraying a stoic construction foreman on a 90 minute car ride to rectify one of his greatest mistakes. I was mesmerized throughout, and with this role, Hardy has secured upper-echelon status amongst Hollywood's best character actors.

Oscar Hopeful: Best Score - Mica Levi, Under the Skin
I wasn't as attached to Jonathan Glazer's sci-fi think-piece as most; but I can say the most undeniable part of the film was Mica Levi's haunting score, which set the stage for some of the film's most memorable visuals. The utterly creepy three-note melody is still reverberating through my head months after much of the rest of the film has left me behind. This is the mark of fine auditory craft.


Best Movie: The Double

Believe me, the top of my Best of 2014 list is getting crowded real fast.  Two strong contenders for the top of the list (the two that are at the top of my list right now) have already been covered with The Grand Budapest Hotel and Snowpiercer, a pair of masterpieces.  Whew.  But this was still a hard battle between two other, very different movies (more on this below), in the end, I had to give this to The Double, Richard Ayoade's (Submarine, The IT Crowd) comically surreal take on a Fyodor Dostoevsky story.  The film finds Jesse Eisenberg playing a tragicomic office drone straight out of Terry Gilliam's similarly dystopian Brazil.  He spends all day working in a bureaucratic mess and pining away for copy girl Mia Wasikowska when his life is upended by the appearance of someone who looks exactly like him - something no one else seems to notice or comment on - but with ten times more confidence and half as many scruples.  The Double didn't quite stick the landing for me, but the ride getting there is thrilling, unpredictable, and often shockingly funny.

Outstanding Performance: Agata Kulesza, Ida

Ida is almost certainly going to be on my Best of 2014 list, and actress Agata Kulesza plays a huge part of that (as does, obviously, the gorgeous cinematography).  Kulesza plays Wanda Gruz, a powerful woman in the Polish Communist party who has just met her long-lost niece, a nun seeking to learn about her family before she takes her vows.  The two - polar opposites in the best way - go on a road trip across the Polish countryside, and learn how intimately their family's past is tied to Poland's World War II sins.  It's a powerful story, but Kulesza stands out even within it, a bitter woman harboring decades-long pain that we come to know only in fits and starts.  If lead actress Agata Trzebuchowska is the cipher granting the film its remarkable stillness, Kulesza is the quiet avenging angel wondering how it could have all gone so wrong.

Oscar Hopeful: Best Adapted Screenplay - 22 Jump Street

Typically, if you want to know what the most underrated movie of any given year is, a good rule of thumb is to look to either horror or comedy.  And while this year's horror hasn't really impressed me - I liked Oculus, but it didn't exactly blow me away - this year is the first really excellent one for big screen comedy in awhile.  Michael Bacall is proving to be one of the most formidable comedy writers on the big screen today, working with Phil Lord & Christopher Miller on the Jump Street movies and Edgar Wright on Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and here, Bacall did the impossible: He wrote a really excellent comedy sequel.  Comedy sequels are hard to do (almost impossible, really), but 22 Jump Street manages to not just be funny without repeating its excellent predecessor; it manages to be funny about repeating its predecessor.  No one expected a Channing Tatum/Jonah Hill 80's TV remake franchise to become a bastion of whip-smart comedy on the big screen, but that's the world we live in.


Best Movie: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Yes this is a relatively recent release, and, in all fairness, I should probably allow my initial thoughts to sink in just a bit more.  But then...to hell with it, I'm going to go with my gut.  2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a huge surprise in a lot of ways.  Not being a huge fan of this particular franchise, I really had no expectations whatsoever.  So of course, like many, I found myself blown away by the action, depth, plot, and pitch-perfect CGI/motion capture.  Three years later, Dawn takes what there was to love about the first film and amplifies it significantly.  A story which is so utterly captivating paired with jaw-dropping special effects, you honestly forget that these apes are not real, finding yourself lost in Caesar's struggle to maintain a functioning society.  Half Shakespearean societal drama, half human drama about the struggle to survive in a post-apocalyptic waste land, Dawn of the Apes is easily my favorite movie of 2014 thus far.  An almost perfect sequel.

Outstanding Performance: Chris Evans, Captain America: The Winter Soldier

This pick should be prefaced with something I bring up quite a bit on the GeekRex podcast.  Unlike the rest of our team, I do not live in an area which receives all the latest indie hits or niche foreign films that only film bloggers know.  Where I live is like much of America in that it only receives the widest of releases.  Thus, my pick for outstanding performance, while fitting, is also a result of my not having seen very much of 2014's independent offerings.  Nevertheless, The Winter Soldier is one of the best action films of this year, and it is all because it is grounded by the fantastic job Chris Evans does of portraying the title character.  Steve Rogers is very different from most superheroes, and Evans dials in on that.  His selfless, others first attitude is one that most superheroes strive for, but Captain America is truly the only on screen comic book hero we have seen reach that ideal.  Evans has perfect chemistry with each of his co-stars, but he also shows viewers just how underrated an actor the man has become over the years.  Pending Guardians of the Galaxy, it is quite possible that Winter Soldier will end up being the best of Marvel Studios' Phase Two films, and that is no doubt due, in part, to how outstanding a performance Evans gives.

Oscar Hopeful: Best Documentary - Life Itself

Admittedly, I was very much so about to concur with Hannah's choice of The Lego Movie in this category.  That being said, I definitely wanted to continue the trend of each of us selecting a different Oscar category for our selections.  With that in mind, I went with what is my most recently viewed film: the documentary on the life of film critic Roger Ebert, Life Itself.  Ebert is a man who took himself from simply writing movie reviews for the Chicago Sun-Times and turned it into a career that not only made itself legitimate, but was just as much an art form as the films it criticized.  Any fan of cinema cannot claim to be so without knowing the name of Roger Ebert, and Life Itself gives more insight into why his legacy on film and film criticism is so indelible.  Also detailing the health struggles Ebert faced late in life, the documentary is both heart-warming and tragic.  It would be easy for the film to make Ebert out to be a monument of cinema history, something more than a man.  But for the simple fact that the documentary continuously reminds us just how human and fragile the man truly was, it makes you appreciate his contributions to this world even more.  I'm not usually great with Oscar nominee picks, but I would be shocked if this does not at least get a nod come next year.

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Comics Spotlight Review: The Shadow Hero - Enter the Green Turtle (Issue 6)

We at GeekRex have have been reading Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew's The Shadow Hero since #1 back in February, and we've loved it so far; but we all know comics have a varied history with sticking the landing–so does The Shadow Hero nail it?

In this extra-sized finale, we get to learn more about our hidden antagonist, Ten Grand, who himself has a pretty fascinating background that begins with hope in America but quickly turns violent. This is where perhaps the best parts of the issue are, as Yang creates an extremely interesting backstory that really explores the historical period and culture of Chinese-Americans. Ten Grand's mentor is a man who became a eunuch as a sign of loyalty to the empire which is now gone, and he seeks to create his own empire in America.
This leads to a Ra's Al Ghul-like situation in which our hero the Green Turtle is forced to fight the gangsters that took his father's life, a fight in which only one will walk away and will inherit Ten Grand's position at the head of the gang. It's a morally tense fight, but my only quibble with the issue comes here, when Hank's mom finds him and essentially "pauses" the fight and tells Hank that he's become a real superhero. It's a bit awkward narratively, but fortunately this can be overlooked because the bits of comedic relief and tenderness that it brings are absolutely worth the tangent. The familial relationships in this book have always been one of its strong suits, and it's nice to bring some closure to the bond that has developed between mother and son here.

My favorite part of the issue comes when we discover that Ten Grand also has a spirit living in his shadow, the ambitious Dragon that we saw all the way back in issue one. The Dragon and the Tortoise converse, the Tortoise trying his best to get the Dragon to stop this violent madness. Their conversation, overlayed on the fight between Hank and Ten Grand, is full of thematic richness, really bringing home the ideas that Yang has played with throughout the book. The idea of using superheroes as a metaphor for a new kind of moral hero in a changing cultural landscape is not a new one, but it is a perfect on in this setting and is given an all-new perspective that is wholly welcome.
The issue (and series) ends on a high note, bringing into play all the elements that have made this book receive such glowing reviews from us all the way through: great humor, interesting moral questions, and a really nice surprise that plays with the idea of being a hero in a foreign land. It ends with America just on the verge of entering World War II, which (at least in our imaginations) provides us with a whole host of new adventures for the Green Turtle.

Liew is in rare form here as well, and gets a chance to really show off with the many fight scenes that permeate the issue. While these are fantastic, I especially love his work on the spirits, which have a cartoonish, but historical look. There are also many comedic moments here that might fall a little flat if it weren't for his wonderful cartooning which really sell the humor and have a classic feel.

As both a revival of a lost character and a different cultural perspective on the superhero archetype, The Shadow Hero is a thoroughly enjoyable comic book. It's not quite like anything I've read before, but it adds much to the landscape of Asian superheroes and has elevated the Green Turtle to be my favorite new superhero in years. It's wonderful to see these kinds of stories come out, and between Yang's tight, clever scripting and Liew's dynamic layouts and style, this one comes with very high recommendations!

You can purchase the all six issues of The Shadow Hero digitally from First Second, or get the complete graphic novel, on sale now!
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