Saturday, February 27, 2016

Superhero Controversy - Iron Fist

Finn Jones

Iron Fist
According to several news sources (here's a link from the Business Insider), the SJWs have gotten their panties in a bunch because white actor Finn Jones was chosen to play Marvel's Iron Fist in his upcoming Netflix series. Never mind that Marvel is sticking with the source material--white kid gets orphaned near a mystical city in the Orient; he is taken in and trained to be a martial artist. But the most intolerant SJWs are insisting that due to all white people being hateful bigots blah, blah, blah, Marvel should have hired an Asian actor to balance the scales. By insisting Marvel change the race of a white character to Asian, and ONLY Asians can be cast as martial artists, aren't they being as racist as the people they are accusing?

Once again, tolerant people are the most intolerant people I know. Oh, and if Marvel wants to add Chinese character Shang Chi, one of my absolute favorite comics characters, to the guest list of the Iron Fist show, by all means do so. Everyone wins.

Shang Chi

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Comic Store Profile - Up. Up and Away!

My buddy Kendall Swafford has opened up his second location of Up, Up and Away Comics in Northern Cincinnati. and it's really cool.

Check out the store tour/profile on Comic Book Resources here.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Movie Review - Deadpool

The era of the superhero movie is here and it looks like it isn’t going away for a while. Deadpool proves that, as finally a studio is taking some real chances. Deadpool is as out of the box as it gets, a hard-R romp through the life of mercenary Wade Wilson. Two warnings up front—don’t go if you’re easily offended and don’t take a child under sixteen.

I was never into Deadpool comics, the character just never appealed to me. I never had anything against the deformed, wisecracking mercenary in a cartoony series, it just wasn’t my thing. But everything works in this movie. The humor starts from the opening credits and lets viewers know we’re not taking any of the next two hours super seriously.

Ryan Reynolds is hilarious as Deadpool, cracking joke after joke on his way through terminal cancer to a treatment that makes him a superh—well, he doesn’t like that word. It just makes him super. When his mysterious overlords try to enslave him, he rebels and finds out he has some cool new superpowers, like being able to heal from almost any wound. Unfortunately, he now makes Freddy Kruger look like Hugh Jackman. He is afraid to go back to his hot fiancĂ©e Vanessa (Firefly’s Morena Baccarin, in an extremely sexual role) until he finds a cure.

This movie is a full out, action packed, irreverent hoot. The jokes fly fast and from all sides and it will take multiple viewings to catch them all. Deadpool constantly breaks the fourth wall, and skewers Fox Studios, comic books, the X-Men, the aforementioned Mr. Jackman and breaking the fourth wall. Actually X-Men Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) guest star and their heroics add incredible depth and contrast to Deadpool’s anti-anti-hero persona. The movie works on so many levels; as a comedy, a straight action adventure and a crass, vulgar love story. This is the best superhero movie out in quite some time and one to set the bar against for future enjoyment of superhero movies. And don't miss Stan Lee in one of his best cameos. Stan's always had a bit of a naughty streak and it was nice to see him indulge himself a bit. A terrific time.  

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Comics Capsule Reviews

Star Wars #14: Did I mention Marvel’s Star Wars comics are firing on all cylinders and are pretty great? If not, they are. This issue is the penultimate chapter of the “Vader Down” storyline, where Darth Vader is shot down over a distant planet and the entire Rebellion shows up to remove him from the cosmic chessboard. The odds are around 10,000 to 1 in favor of the Rebellion. The Rebellion better go back and get some more guys. Vader is drawn into the trap because he is tracking Luke Skywalker (in continuity this takes place before Vader realizes Luke is his son). Vader comes close to catching him, until his own people betray him and a familiar character gets the drop on him. A character he may also be related to. 

If the movies were half as fun as these comics, they might actually make another billion dollars. 

Rating: **** out of 5 stars. 

The Fade Out #12: (*Slight spoilers*) This twelfth and final issue wraps up the novel-length mystery of who killed movie star Valeria Sommers. I won’t go into detailed spoilers, but I will say the resolution was unsatisfying and not to my taste. I’ve not made a secret of my love for this creative team, writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips. They’re geniuses. But ever since the first season of The Wire, great as it was, writers have realized that it is acceptable, and even somewhat realistic for criminals to get away with it. To get off scot free with no punishment and no remorse. Personally, I hate that idea. I really hate it when the bad guys win—always have. Comes from reading too many Stan Lee comics when I was a kid (Aw, who am I kidding? There’s no such thing). The mystery is solved, and in the end the protagonist, screenwriter Charlie Parrish, stands empty, alone and lost. It’s basically what he deserved, but it is a cold, stark finish. Valeria’s murder stands unavenged and the murderer and the system that protects him are left to run like a profitable, well-oiled machine. I wasted twelve issues for this? Objectively this book is a fine work of art by two masters at the height of their powers. Subjectively, the ending ruined the entire story for me. 

Rating: *** stars out of 5 

Rachel Rising #39: This book is eighteen pages of story, black and white, takes five minutes to read and costs four bucks. It’s worth every penny. The risen Rachel is closer than ever to finding out who killed her. Earl tells Aunt Johnny about his relationship with Jet. In the morgue, Rachel touches a fresh corpse to see through their eyes how they died. Then reluctantly she tries it again on an unidentifiable glob of goo that was also brought in recently. This time she sees the killer, but the killer stares back. With prejudice. 

I just read that writer/artist Terry Moore is ending Rachel Rising and wrapping up the story with #42. That’s a shame, it’s one of the best books on the market and has more heart and character than everything DC Comics publishes put together. I will miss this quality piece of work by a comics master. At least I know the ending will be epic. 

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars 

Velvet #13: Here’s another book by Ed Brubaker, this time with art by the fabulous Steve Epting. I liked it a lot better than The Fade Out. Taking place in the early ‘70s, Velvet is a former spy tracking down her lover’s killer. The closer she gets to answers, the more maze-like mysteries she wraps around herself. And the weight of those mysteries is starting to take its toll. 

Interrogating a witness at a posh hotel restaurant, Velvet is accosted by her former spy trainer with a gun. Barely escaping, she leaps out the window and attempts to save her fleeing and terrified witness. In the end the witness uses one word that starts to make sense of this entire mess. Unfortunately, that word implicates the 1972 Republican Party. This may be another red herring, but Brubaker proved in his Captain America run that he doesn’t care for conservatives, small government or low taxes. If people want those things, for some reason Brubaker thinks they are feeble-minded racists. I’d roll my eyes and sigh, but those are the exact same thoughts expressed by almost every mainstream comics writer, so that would be a lot of sighing and eye rolling. I just hope he sticks to an entertaining story and doesn’t continue to lay the faults of the world at the feet of Republicans. We all know it’s Obama’s fault, right? No one is perfect, but I hope Brubaker can keep his partisan politics out of his stories. This isn’t Marvel Comics.

Rating: **** out of 5 stars 

Weird Love #11: If David Lynch and Salvador Dali made comics together, those comics would probably look something like Weird Love. Reprinting stories from the ’50s through the ‘70s, today we would call these stories everything from creepy to bizarre. Back then they just called ‘em comics! Some of the stories include: 

- Jailbird’s Romance (Romantic Adventures #49, 1954): Angel Morelli is one of the most hardened criminals of the decade! But she never had a chance, really. She got involved with small-time thug Alfie as a teenager, then grew to like their thieving lifestyle. When Alfie gets gunned down by the cops, Angel is captured and does her first stint in prison. When she is released she goes right back to her criminal ways, teaming up with gangster chauffer Danny to rob his boss. Unfortunately, Angel falls for the boss and refuses to go through with the robbery. And why should she? He’s not a get the milk free type—he’s actually willing to marry her! Angel’s erstwhile partner Danny doesn’t care for that plan. He frames her for a murder, then reveals her criminal past! Before she can prove her innocence, she grabs a gat and plugs Danny in front of God and everybody! Back to prison for you, Angel. Thanks for playing. And watch that temper. 

- The Girl Next Door (Love and Marriage #6, 1953): Gwen is sort of a slutty gold-digger. She is engaged to Roger, but when she sees something shiny (that would be diamonds) she leaves him in an instant to marry the older and ailing George. When George eventually gets sick and dies (mostly because Gwen was poisoning him), she moves back to town and goes straight after the now happily married Roger. At first Rog is flattered by the attention, but when things get to Fatal Attraction levels, he insists Gwen back off. Undaunted, she loosens the stair rails on her second floor and invites Mrs. Roger over for tea, Rog’s mom shows up instead and reads her the riot act. Shocked someone has seen through to her slutty, gold digging interior, Gwen grabs the stair rail and goes tumbling down the stairs. She lives just long enough to confess to poisoning George and ask Roger for one final tongue kiss. Now that’s how you end a story, Brubaker! 

- Happiness is a Guy Named Joe (Youthful Romances #14, 1952): No kidding, this is probably the best (and only) irony-free story published in Weird Love. It’s actually good on its own merits! 

Elaine and Joe are young and in love. Too young, according to Elaine’s parents. They want to get hitched before Joe goes off to war, but Elaine is underage and her parents say no. Horny, um, in love, Joe insists they elope anyway. They make it as far as Millwood and find a Justice of the Peace. But Elaine’s parents and the local sheriff track them down and put a stop to their youthful shenanigans. It’s all but over until the sheriff relates the story, ten years before, of his own daughter who wanted to elope before her boyfriend went off to the big one. When he died in battle, she was heartbroken and hasn’t spoken with him since. Touched, Elaine’s parents change their minds and the nuptials proceed. Everyone is happy. Then the sheriff calls his happily married daughter and tells her he’ll be stopping by for dinner on the way home. And he has a heck of a story to tell. Great art, too. 

- I Sinned Against Love (First Love Illustrated #21, 1952): Gail has one dreamy goal in life—to become Mrs. Ron Brewster. Doesn’t everyone? On their last date before Ron runs off to join the Army, Gail does more manipulation than a Jewish and Catholic mother combined. Letting her loneliness and desperation cling to her like flop sweat, Gail basically forces Ron to propose ... then acts shocked when it happens! Married in an drunken exhausted stupor, Ron and Gail don’t even have time to consummate their marriage before he has to report to the bus depot (I think ... ‘50s comics were a little sketchy on those details). 

Now just as lonely, Gail can’t even date because her husband is overseas playing soldier ... that is, until she starts working for the male-modelesque Mr. Holbrook. Gail agonizes over her rash marriage decision. Her thought balloons reveal the truth ... “After all, what is our marriage? The memory of a few hurried words mumbled by a sleepy stranger! We never dreamed or planned together as real married people do!” Translation: We were young and drunk, and now momma needs lovin’! Now cheating on Ron with Mr. Holbrook, Gail accidently notices Ron was killed in action in a newspaper headline. Wow, the army was really lax on next of kin notification in 1952! 

Filled with guilt, our two-timing hussy ‘fesses up to Mr. Holbrook, who righteously dumps her in disgust. Way to show some stones, Frank! The last panel leaves Gail a weeping mess, contemplating her long decline into forlorn spinsterhood. That’s about as uplifting as it gets. 

In eleven issues, Weird Love hasn’t lost a scintilla of its edge. Keep the perfidy coming! 

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars

Monday, February 1, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

I know this review is a bit late, but I wanted to take time and reflect on this movie. I know nothing—nothing—will match the thrill of seeing Star Wars in the theater with my friend Jeff the day it came out on May 25, 1977. I was 12 years old (thirteen a few months later) and knew nothing about this movie. I wasn’t anticipating it, we had no idea what was coming or the phenomenon it would spawn. It just looked like a cool sci-fi flick. I probably saw it eight times in the next year it stayed put at the local cinema. I’ve seen it countless times since then. I make no claim Star Wars is the best movie ever made, or deserved the Oscar that year for Best Picture (Annie Hall won). But to a twelve-year-old sci-fi nut, cinematic experiences never got better than that night.

I enjoyed The Empire Strikes Back almost as much. So many cool moments in that movie. Return of the Jedi was sad and cute, and by that time I had discovered girls anyway. Years later when Lucas did the second trilogy, I enjoyed them, but not with the missionary fervor with which I loved Star Wars. My biggest question for the second trilogy was, “Did it feel like Star Wars?” With some reservations, I thought yes.

Now a new creative team has brought us Star Wars: The Force Awakens. My thoughts? I liked it. Did it feel like Star Wars? Ehhh ... yeah, a little.  

Director J.J. Abrams knows special effects, but is incapable of telling a story. He lives for the action scenes, the space battles, the conflict. The stuff in the middle is just boring filler to take up time between battle sequences. Story or character development? Let TV do that. He’s in it for the explosions. He’s true to form here, as many of the plot developments made no sense. Why does one Stormtrooper defect? He’s the only unhappy soldier in the army? How can a tomboy beanpole hold her own in a swordfight with someone who has trained for years? Why does Kylo Ren demand respect when he’s a whiny, murderous Millennial?

Despite those plot holes, the action and effect shots were stunning. I liked, but didn’t love, the new cast members. Poe shows the most promise, but didn’t get a lot of screen time. All Finn (John Boyega) did was sweat a lot and run away from danger, but redeemed himself a bit in the end. Daisy Ridley as Rey was bland, coming off as a less talented and less pretty Keira Knightley. Who’s daughter is she? Who cares? She should go on a vision quest with Yoda to search for a personality. But seeing the old cast (literally) was fantastic. Harrison Ford still has charm to spare, Carrie Fisher looked great and Leia’s place in the movie was a natural and believable transition for the character. And it was great to see beardy Mark Hamill as Luke. He should have had a bigger role, but I guess we have the next film in the series for that.

I really didn’t expect much from Abrams and crew, but to get a coherent, watchable movie (especially after ruining Star Trek for modern generations) was a pleasant surprise. A solid three stars, and I look forward to more in the series.

Rating: *** out of 5 stars