Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Matt's Weekly Comics - 10/31/12

Wow, holy crap, radical dude, this was a fantastic week for comics for myself. As I'm writing this I have no idea what I'm going to crown my favorite of the week. Because more than a few are just excellent and a half.

Well, I know that The New Deadwardians #8 isn't my favorite. Not to the fault of the book, necessarily. This Vertigo miniseries about vampires, zombies and class warfare is smart and clever, but it's also very dense and therefore hard to follow on a monthly basis. This is the last issue, and it seems good, I guess? It's hard for me to tell. I need to read this story in one go at some point.

And I suppose A + X #1 isn't my favorite, but it's neat. It seems like this series all-around will be cooler in concept than in execution, but the first issue was pretty cool. The premise of this new ongoing is to alternate creators and have them craft stories about an Avenger and an X-Men member working together.  Each issue has two stories.

As far as this first issue goes, one is a pretty entertaining yarn of WW2 Captain America and Bucky meeting up with time-traveling Sable to fight, like, nazi robots and a random time-traveling dorky kid. The other is a bizarre Hulk and Wolverine tie-in that has them fighting them over left-overs in the fridge and against future versions of themselves out to... kill... them... the past versions of the future version of the two characters... it's kinda cool I guess!

I don't know. Neither story was particularly satisfying but I don't feel like my money was wasted.

Grant Morrison's Happy #2 is really, really dope. It's super-twisted. The last page reveal is very disturbing. And the rest is incredibly bizarre and funny in an incredibly morbid sort of way.

It's an ultra-violent and all-around mature book about a murdering ex-cop who is being following around by a floating blue horse; a floating blue horse that is trying to convince our protagonist to save a little girl from a kidnapping and horrific Santa Claus.

So... get it!

I got Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #16.1. I hadn't delved into Miles Morales outside of Spider-Men (which is great!), but I read and love the first five volumes of Bendis's first volume of Ultimate Spider-Man. This seemed like a good jump-on point, and it was only $3.

And yeah, it is a pretty good jump-on point I think. I'll probably try to read this month-to-month now. I'm caught up. Miles seems cool. And it is an interesting story in its own right, smartly giving new readers a recap through a new story about a reporter trying to figure the new Spider-Man out.

Moving on to the annuals now, which were all just great.
Avenging Spider-Man had its annual. And, yeah, sure, this is my book of the week. Holy crap is this book hilarious. Two doofuses find a device in the park that makes everyone close-by incredibly angry at each other. There is some brilliant dialogue exchanged by comically educated and articulated loud-mouth-average-joes and children with Spidey.

And The Thing gets pissed at Spider-Man over an insignificant $30. He calls Spidey a bum.

Oh, and something so amazing happens at the end that it would be a crime against humanity for me to ruin it. I'll just say that The Thing and Spider-Man have a moment.

The detailed and expressive art is even great.

Ah. Loved it. Absolutely loved it.

Swamp Thing's annual is also amazing. Scott Snyder, astoundingly, is able to do both twisted and cute character interactions. The man's a genius.

This issue is a cute story about Alec and Abby first meeting that gets real creepy real fast. The art from Batman #12's Becky Cloonan is also perfect for this issue's story.

It's just really good. As per usually with The New 52's Swampy.

I'm not caught up on The New 52's Action Comics, but I have read the first 9 issues. And now this annual, and this annual is actually pretty cool, I think.

I bought it because of the art, and because I like annuals, if I'm going to be honest here. But it's pretty great! It's a simple "There's a baddy, let's punch him!" storyline with Supes and Steel and it's fun, fun, fun! The dialogue is entertaining and dat art, man. Good stuff.

And lastly, I read Batgirl's annual. Which I loved. Batgirl and Catwoman are a great duo and the artwork here is very, very strong. A Court of Owls Talon is a major character in this story, which is cool, but I take issue a bit with Talons showing up all over the place. Takes away from the mystery and intrigue that Snyder set up so well, man.

Commissioner Gordan acts like a boss, the empathetic angle for the Court assassin is wonderful, dat art, and dat Barbara/Selena pair, though, so.

That's all. My back hurts. And  I didn't shower yet. And sleep is a thing. Bai.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Enlightenment, Rhetoric, and Who I Am

It all started in a movie theater with my mother. We were there to see a new film with that quirky Will Ferrel character. Stranger Than Fiction. The funny advertisements had the two of us sold, or at least they had me sold, that's all that really matters, my mom took me to go see movies that I wanted to see. Because I was 10 or so.

The funny movie that the advertisements and the lead role forecasted was not incredibly funny, or goofy, but serious. And quite compelling. It's my oldest memory of being challenged by a film, or whatever, by art, if you will. I really, really enjoyed myself. My mother joked that she can "start taking me to serious movies now."

Little Matt felt enlightened for what was probably the first time. What a peculiar feeling that was. What an amazing feeling that was.

Two years later, I sat down in another movie theater with my mother and saw The Dark Knight. Again, I was tricked into seeing a movie that would challenge my feeble [then 12] young mind. The Dark Knight wasn't a big, dumb popcorn-cruncher, it was, well,

incredibly enlightening.

Earlier today I sat in a movie theater with my mother, again, and saw The Perks of being a Wallflower. I haven't read the book so my predictions about the film were based off of those dastardly, often-misleading advertisements, that this time managed to make a movie look like a potentially-pretentious quirk-fest.

But it was, well, I think you know.

The Perks of being a Wallflower made something click deep inside of me. It really reminded me of who I am and why I choose to be that person.

It's not a connection made with any of the film's characters that made this click. It's simply the feeling the movie gave me, reminding me of the other two times at the movie theater with my mother.

I'm a critic, and I'm a writer and I'm a seeker of enlightenment.

Let me get one thing straight. If Stranger Than Fiction was a goofy comedy, if The Dark Knight was a big, dumb popcorn-cruncher, if The Perks of being a Wallflower was a quirk-fest, they would not be intrinsically lesser works of art. The point is that these movies took me out of my comfort zone, especially the first two, because Little Matt watched those.

And it was then in Middle School that I learned about rhetoric. Not that word specifically, I wasn't even a teenager at the time and my vocabulary was expectedly less-than-impressive, but rhetoric all the same. By rhetoric in this context I mean critique, and the expression of opinions. I learned about rhetoric when I happened upon reviews, in issues of Nintendo Power and in articles on IGN. People do this? Surely I can.

I've been passionate about art and entertainment when I became passionate about writing and rhetoric during that time in Middle School. I like video games and comic books and novels and music and movies, and I experience them in a way unique in comparison to just about everyone else that I've conversed with on the subject. I experience video games and comic books and novels and music and movies because I seek enlightenment, and I seek to develop my own rhetoric.

When I play a video game, or read a comic book or novel, when I listen to music, or listen to a song, I ask myself what I got from the experience, and I ask myself what I thought of the experience. Often, I take the latter and share my thoughts with the world, whether it be through conversations with friends, a tweet, or a written piece for my blog. I share my thoughts and seek others', publicly ponder what I experienced through social networking, and write reviews.

Video games and comic books and novels and music and movies are not time-wasters for me, like they are for most people. They're enlightenment, and they're additives for my rhetoric, and they always are. That Pixar movie, that blood-and-sex comic book, that crappy game on the App Store, it's all enlightening because I knew, from experiencing it, what exactly it is and how it fits into the world I live in. And it all expands my rhetoric because my world-view has, and my opinions have, more weight.

And that's essentially what my life is. I seek enlightenment through art and entertainment, and I seek to expand my rhetoric by talking, thinking and writing about those experiences.

That's who I am. And I like that.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Matt's Weekly Comics - 10/24/12

I figured I'd do little weekly write-ups on the new-release comics I buy every week. Normally, I cram my thoughts on my weekly comic pick-ups into several sets of one-hundred forty character [or less] tweets (with the exception of the actual reviews I do for some books), so this makes more sense. I tried doing full reviews for every book I picked up each week at one point, but that was too much work for myself. I'm just going to write what I feel like writing with these posts. These will be written with a very casual style. Yo.

 I read the new issue of Li'l Depressed Boy, a book I just recently got caught up on this weekend due to the recent Comixology sale (a series that I'm absolutely in love with; a series that has to be one of my favorite comics ever). It was pretty good. Kinda depressing. A little funny. Not a lot happened but ya know. I enjoyed it. It's slowly building to what's most likely going to be a very sad end to this story arc.

 I picked up the A-Babies vs. X-Babies one-shot from Marvel (which came out last week physically, this week digitally) and it was pretty baller. The art is really good. Oh so colorful and cute. And it's a fun little story about li'l Cap calling the Avengers together to take back his teddy bear from Scott and his band of X-Men. Baby Hulk smashes Baby Wolverine, by the way, and it's pretty nice. And they only charged $3!

 Let's see. I read Batman: The Dark Knight #13. That was a good time. This book is a little terrifying. And dark. And bloody. The artwork and the dialogue and what the creators are doing to Batman as well as, uh, children, is all pretty messed up. Me gusta.

Batman Inc. #4. Loved it. Best issue of the New 52's Batman Inc. by far. The reveal of Wingman and who's behind the mask. Damian as Red Robin. The cliff-hanger. Burnham's art. Yes.

 I really enjoyed Talon #0, so I was pretty excited about this week's Talon #1. It was good stuff. I'm not a big fan of the art, but that's okay. They did a big paradigm shift from the previous issue, putting Calvin on the offense rather than defense. It makes a fun set-up. Calvin Rose is out to take down the Court of Owls. God speed, Rose. God speed.

 My favorite book of the week was actually the one I picked up on a whim: Punisher Warzone #1. I read the first issue of the latest Punisher series and couldn't get into it, but after this issue it's definitely on my to-do-list to try again. It's a five-issue miniseries that takes place after the recently concluded Punisher run. This book was gripping. I was upset when I got to the end, and the 20-some page comic felt like a few pages for me. I love how Punisher's "imma murder the bad dudes" mantra is challenging the morals of each of the Avegners. Gimme the next issue, please.

 Seeya. Go read comics.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Frankenweenie (Film) - Review

For better or for worse, Tim Burton makes films like no one else can. His live action films are a bit less distinctive, but Burton's stop-motion is so very Burton. His latest film is Frankenweenie, a remake of an old short film he created when he was much younger. It's creative, funny and often quite charming, but it also completely lacks a sorely needed thematic backbone and strong identity.

Frankenweenie is a parody of the classic Frankenstein tale. Victor, a talented film-maker, can't connect to other people, and instead focuses on his work and his lovable dog Sparky. When Sparky dies, he's devastated. After being inspired by a lecture in science class, Victor decides to bring Sparky back to life. He of course is successful, and we have our premise.

Victor is a typical kind of character, but a relatable and touching one, partly due to Charlie Tahan's voice work clinching his quiet yet smart and determined personality. There's the ubiquitous awkward, fat character and the nerdy, Asian character, which both entertained me, but I have some reservations about how strongly the stereotypes were played up in the latter kid, considering the film's child-friendly atmosphere otherwise. Some of the characters here are actually quite original, though, like the creepy wide-eyed girl whose equally creepy cat lays omens in the form of poop, and the hilariously weird kid that is meant to harken back to the assistant of Doctor Frankenstein in the old tale.

Later in the movie, the other kids discover Victor's revived dog and use his methods to spruce up their previously comedically bad science fair projects. When they use the lightening to shock life into their test subjects, their results are not so cute and cuddly. Demented sea monkeys wreak havoc, a giant turtle rampages around like Godzilla, etc. This quickens the pace of the film and makes it more exciting, and shows more than any other part just how awesome this film's visuals and overall sense of style is.

The animation is so very good, and the creative design of the sets and creatures and characters is also so very good. The cute things look cute, the monsters look monstrous, and the quirky things look quirky. Also, it's not a frightening movie, but the tone is very much like that of a horror film, especially in the latter half. That latter half is filled with cool creatures messing stuff up and looking sweet while they're doing it.

There's a big problem, though: The film has a bit of an identity crisis. For one thing, Victor is pinned as a film-maker in the first half of the movie, but by the end it appears as though Frankenweenie's film-makers changed their minds and wanted him to be a scientist. But the bigger issue is the film's overarching theme, or perhaps more accurately, its lack thereof. The sole purpose of Victor's parents seems to be, other than establishing that he has parents, to build up to a hard yet important lesson that children not only especially need to learn, but are able to handle.

And then the movie just completely drops the ball on that at the end.

There are a few possibilities. The first is that the creators of this film don't think that children are smart enough, nor willing to, learn something meaningful. The second is that they placed seeds for a compelling lesson that they didn't develop at the end out of laziness. And the third is that they attempted to have some other kind of lesson; other than the one that they actually began to build up to. No matter which is the case, what they created is thematically empty. Not every movie needs a theme but it feels criminally missing in this one, as it presents a serious problem that children often don't know how to handle, and purposely ignores it.

It's hard to give a clear verdict on Frankenweenie. It's an incredibly creative film, with fun characters and gorgeous visuals. It's funny and often quite clever. It has fun with itself. But its ending, which solidifies its lack of a clear identity and thematic backbone in a film that sourly needs such a thing, is so massively disappointing that the rest of the movie feels intrinsically worse by the time the credits roll. Frankenweenie is a pretty fun ride but an amateur mistake by a talented director stops it from being the masterpiece it could have so easily been.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Batwing #13 - Review

The New 52's Batwing started out as quite the fantastic comic, with a stellar first story arc about a gruesome murderer in Africa. The next story arc was still good but certainly weaker than the first, turning into a light-hearted team-up book in Gotham. Because of this, I was a bit nervous about Batwing #13, but now that I've actually had the chance to read it, I can say that it's back to the quality of its first arc. David Zavimbe is back in Africa and is up against a spreading death cult, and the first chapter is certainly promising.

Father Cult is Batwing's new foe, the leader of a cult built around death. They recruit young people and slit their throat for blood sacrifices, or use [most-likely supernatural] ambiguity to brainwash them for their cause. The police system is corrupt, which makes the just cops fumble with the catastrophe. It's harrowing and effective, despite not being all that original of a concept; at least thus far.

Father Cult is pretty cool. His supernatural powers are interesting, and he's rather scary in his appearance. There's also a brand-new hero who fights against this cult, and she's pretty cool because she's a she and because she has electricity-swords. A female cop that truly wants to help, motivated by the disappearance of her niece, is also present, which helps to get across the desperation of the situation.

This issue is pretty good. It's a promising start to a new chapter in Batwing's depressing life.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Space Punisher #2 - Review

Contemporary comic books are absolutely fantastic, but they do face a bit of a big problem - especially when it comes to the big two, Marvel and DC - there aren't enough fun books. Books that aren't trying to make smart commentary, books that aren't trying to be "gritty," books that are just plain entertaining to read. A wacky new mini-series from Marvel tagged Space Punisher is exactly what this medium needs more of. The premise is simple: In a self-contained alternate universe, Punisher goes through space cracking skulls in order to avenge his parents, whom died at the hands of a nefarious alien mafia. It's demonstrably stupid, but it is stupidity orchestrated with a masterful amount of creativity and comedic genius.

The first issue was fine: it introduced a great concept, it hosted a few chuckle-worthy moments and was charming from start to finish. But issue number-two really takes the cake. It's hilarious. The real star of the show is Hulk, who is played for laughs in a manner that beats even his portrayal in The Avengers film. This book is more than willing to kill off major Marvel characters, and watching Hulk rip such characters to bloody shreds in the blink of an eye is simply marvelous.

Character work on Punisher himself is also great, establishing him as a smart satire of the rough-'n-tough badass archetype that he normally makes his own. He has cartoonishly violent and vulgar reactions to the smallest grievances, that are always fun to read. His AI helpers, one his ship and one an anthropomorphized robot, clash well with him. Their wit and calmness exemplifies Punisher's hyperbolic characterization.

The artwork is gorgeous. The pages are flooded with color, making everything pop. Characters are expressive and the art as a whole is unique. It really fits the ridiculous sci-fi story that this comic tells remarkably well.

This comic book is hilarious. This comic book is stupid. This comic book is stupendous-looking. This comic book is tons of fun. This comic book is exactly what I want to see more of out of not just Marvel and DC, but out of the whole industry. Bravo.